02/22/2012, Hog Cay, Ragged Islands
This morning Bud, Fuzzy and I walked over to House Bay to try to get some conch. The tide was in and it was too deep to see them easily. Fuzzy wouldn't sit in the shade and wait for us, so I ended up sitting with him on the edge most of the time. Bud started to find some conch, but only small ones. Finally, I found an old piece of fish trap rope and unraveled the three twisted pieces and tied them to make a line long enough to tie Fuzzy up in the shade so I could go in. That didn't work for long, Fuzzy started to cry as soon as I got out in the water. Bud was coming back anyway. I managed to get my shirt wet (I had it on over my bathing suit) and found about three small conch. We gave up and went back.
After an early lunch we decided to do the fishing, hiking thing again, leaving Fuzzy aboard. Bud took me over to the beach at Middle Pen (where most of the boats anchor). It was 11:30 and we agreed to meet back at the beach at 3 PM. Before I left the beach I took a couple of pictures of the set up there. I'll post one with this entry. It shows the benches, tables and fire pits all made from stuff found washed up along the ocean side. They have a Bocce court and balls made from fishing floats and a "Zamboni" to smooth the sand made from a plastic pallet.
I hiked across the island to the ocean side along the ridge between our anchorage and Middle Pen. I walked the beaches and found a lot more sea beans. I'm going to quit picking them up, I have too many. I then hiked back to the anchorage side through the low center. I saw a lot of goats, but was never able to get a good photo of them. I walked north along that beach and explored the cliffs on the north end. I met three women just coming back to their dinghy from a walk. They insisted I take some of their leftover water as I hadn't come out with any. They said there wasn't a trail up the cliff right there. I found another trail heading for the ocean side and took that. I walked back south along the ocean beach and came back again along the ridge trail. I got back at about a quarter to three. There were several other cruisers on the beach then, and I chatted with three other women until Bud arrived to pick me up.
Bud hadn't been able to get any conch, so he ended up fishing with lures. Barracuda like shiny lures and he had a couple of strikes, but couldn't hook them. He found his triple hook was bending, so he replaced it. He lost one more, but then was able to land one. He was afraid it might be too big to be safe to eat, so towed it through the water to show some Bahamian fishermen who were nearby. They told him that it would be good eating. They said Barracuda caught on the banks around here were okay, but the ones caught out on the ocean side were not. In any case, we're having it for supper.
Once back at the boat we both took showers. Since we've been out here I've been washing my hair in sea water, since it takes a lot of water to rinse first the shampoo and then the conditioner out of my hair. Then I go in the shower and wash the rest of me and use our fresh water to rinse. It saves a lot of water.
This afternoon Ed and Karin on Passages arrived. We dropped over to see them on our way to take Fuzzy to the beach. Dan and Nancy from Maja were there too, so we all had a nice visit. We're going to get together to do something tomorrow.
02/21/2012, Hog Cay, Ragged Islands
This morning I called Cathy and Tom on Perseverance to see if that group of three boats was planning to hike, and if so, if I could tag along. In the end, Cathy went, Kathy and Darius from Breeze Hunter and Jackie and Roger from Audacious. Tom was studying for his HAM license exam and Bud is still trying not to walk much. We followed a trail that led from this beach, where we're anchored, across a spit of land to the beach on House Bay on the south end of the island. that's a very shallow bay and Roger and Darius spotted conch in the shallows. They were wading in about 18 inches of water and picking up conch big enough to harvest. It's the first I've seen conch in anything but deep water. I understand that this is what is was like everywhere in the Bahamas years ago, but not anymore. I waded out and managed to find one big enough to keep. They found a piece of fishermen's netting and we put all the conch in that and left them in the shallows to pick up on the way back.
We walked to the east end of that beach and found a trail that cut through to another beach. This beach was on the southeast side of the island, and from here you could see the cut out to the Atlantic. This beach was a good place for finding sea beans. I now have twenty or more of them, but I have yet to find another hamburger bean. Cathy from Perseverance found one today.
At the far end of that beach Roger, Darius, Cathy and I walked out on the iron shore and climbed the hill on the point. We got up to a high spot where we could see both sides of the island. We could look back a mile or so over the flats and see the bay where we are all anchored. We could see the high ridge that runs east to west across the island just to the north of our bay. And we had a good view of the cut going out to the Atlantic. I took a picture of Roger and Darius hiking up to that high point that will be posted with this entry. I took some more pictures while we were up there, I'll put the best ones in the gallery.
While we were there another cruiser came by. He was George from Sequel. He'd walked all the way across the high ridge, then around the ironshore south to us and was going to walk back the way we came and circle back to the beach just north of where we're anchored, where the main group of boats is anchored in Middle Pen Bay.
On the way back Cathy and I took another trial and walked along the south edge of the island back to the beach with the conch. We tried to find a trail at the far end of that beach and didn't, but we did find the ruins of a house and I found what looks like a good coconut under some coconut trees near the ruins. When we got back to the beach we radioed Tom to come and get us, but Bud was listening and he radioed Tom to say that he needed to bring Fuzzy ashore anyway, so he'd come and get us. So we walked down the beach and met Bud and Fuzzy.
This afternoon I finally cleaned the soot off the transom. It took one wash with Awesome Cleaner and two scrubs with fiberglass cleaner and restorer to get it off. Then I put more wax on it. It's still not perfect, but it's much better.
We're planning to stay here a few days longer. The next weather front is supposed to be a non-event down here, so we'll probably wait and move up as the wind permits during or after that front. We may need to cross the open channel during the light and variable wind that comes just before the front, and then sail further northeast as the wind clocks back to the southeast. It's too far ahead to know exactly what days, but it will probably be around next weekend when we start back.
02/20/2012, Hog Cay, Ragged Islands
We took the dinghy today and went about four miles into Duncan Town. This is a pretty unique community. There is a small boat channel that starts in the bay off the northwest corner of Ragged Island and cuts through the mangroves for about two miles to a small shallow harbor at the edge of the town. The picture I'm going to post with this entry (eventually) was taken looking back at the stern of the dinghy at the channel behind us. It gives you some perspective on the size of the channel. Everything that comes to this town has to come down that channel. There is about a 30 foot shallow draft boat in the harbor that they take out to meet the mailboat.
When we got to town we met the folks from the three other boats we'd come in with yesterday. We were all trying to get lunch reservations with Flo at Sheila's Fisherman's Lodge (Flo is Sheila's daughter, and now runs the restaurant). They had been trying to call her on the radio but couldn't get her. Another woman who lived in town (there are only about 70 residents) heard us talking and offered to call Flo for us and soon we had reservations for lunch. The choice was conch or chicken wings. This was at 11:30 and Flo said she could serve us at 1. The other cruisers were heading to the school as there is supposed to be Internet there. If we end up staying here for a few days I may have to take the computer there.
Bud and I walked around the town. It's a very small place but the streets are either concrete or new blacktop. They are supposed to be building a new Bahamian Defence Force Base at the north end of town and we figure the new roads are being built for that. Bud thinks the money comes from the US in an agreement that lets the US pursue drug runners in the Bahamas. The town sits on the top of a ridge. The harbor is on the west side of the ridge. On the east is a salt pond and this one is still being worked. I took several pictures of it. We went to a gathering of cruisers (another garbage burning night) and they had a big container of sea salt the locals had given them. They said the local people harvested the salt mostly for their own use, that the pond was not in production like it had been in the past.
We walked back up to the north end of the ridge and past the All Age School. The cruisers with us who used the Internet there said there are 17 students. We heard they are now able to go all the way through high school, so the island kids don't have to go to Nassau for high school anymore. We circled back towards the street that goes down to the harbor and came across a small pavilion that looks like it's used for public gatherings. We sat down in the shade on the benches for a while. I walked around and got a few more photos. I took a picture of the old community cisterns behind the government building and the new RO water pumps and tanks that are between the cisterns and the government building. There was an opening in the roof of one of the cisterns and I could see that it was now empty. I'm not sure if they're used now that the community has RO (reverse osmosis) water. Most of the houses still have cisterns and I'm sure they use them for non-drinking water.
The other three couples joined us and we all walked down to the Fishermen's Lodge. We walked past the police station, they even have a police cruiser! Fuzzy waited by the front door in the shade while we ate. There were no other customers, so he wasn't in the way. There were some passing goats, but they ignored Fuzzy and Fuzzy ignored them. We had a nice lunch, but as usual there were no vegetables served. Lunch was either cracked conch (deep fried conch) or chicken wings and french fries.
Later in the afternoon, after we'd come back from town, we decided to go to the garbage burning to meet some of the other boats here. There were 10 boats anchored off the next beach. At the gathering they told us that that beach is the preferred anchorage, because you can get closer to shore in deep water. We're okay with where we are, there's still no bad weather in the forecast and we don't like to crowd the folks who are already here.
We don't know yet when we plan to leave. We heard Passages is headed back this way, so may hang out a bit longer.
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.