02/25/2012, Thompson Bay, Long Island
Sailing in to Thompson Bay is beginning to feel like coming home. It is nice to come in to some place familiar. We know right where we can set the anchor, we know the depth is right, we know the anchor will set. We've been lucky, our spot has been open every time we've come back. Today there weren't too many boats here, I think I counted 12 or so. That's less than there were at Hog Cay! Most of the boats have gone to Georgetown for the Cruiser's Regatta. It's a week of parties, games and sailing. It's also a week where there are likely to be 400 boats in Elizabeth Harbour. It's not really our kind of fun. It starts either the 28th or 29th of February, but since it's supposed to blow like stink for the next four days, I think a lot of boats got to Georgetown today.
We had an uneventful trip here today. We got a fairly early start after taking Fuzzy ashore and then lifting the dinghy on the davits. We left Water Cay before 7:30. We tried to sail the first leg, but it was too close, so we motor-sailed. Our course then took us 12 degrees further off the wind and we were able to sail for about 7 miles. Then the wind began to shift towards the front of the boat and die a bit, so the engine came back on. It's not like you can decide to fall off the wind and make it up later. A lot of these places have shallows and reefs not far off the course. Not long after we turned the engine on we saw some dolphins. A group of 5 came and swam at the bow of the boat. They stayed there a couple of minutes until I managed to get the camera out, then they were gone.
When we got up the the wide, shallow channel that cuts east back to Long Island the wind was almost on the nose and very light. We pulled in the jib and stay-sail and motored on with just the main. There was so little wind that the surface of the water was just lightly ripppled. The whole 11 miles of the channel the water never gets more than 12 feet deep, even at high tide. I told Bud it was sailing across a huge swimming pool (the water is that clear). I was trying to get a picture of the starfish we were passing, and managed to catch one with the shadow of me and the boat alongside the starfish. I'll post it once I have Internet access again (Long Island Breeze Resort is closed Sunday and Monday, so Tuesday looks like the day!).
The wind got so light we ended up putting all the sails away on the last leg of the Comer Channel. We even got the main zipped up in the stack pack. Then as we got near Long Island the wind picked up a bit and was from the North, so we pulled out the jib again. We gained 0.4 knot. Wow. Bud said he's just concerned that I get enough weight bearing exercise to fight osteoporosis. How thoughtful. Anyway, that worked for about a half an hour, then the wind shifted back east and we pulled the jib in again.
Once we were anchored Bud took the dinghy in to get four jugs of water (20 gallons) and one jug of gas. He was also going to reserve a laundry spot for Tuesday at Long Island Breeze, but found out their laundry is closed due to a water shortage. Mike, at Long Island Breeze told Bud he wasn't sure how long Long Island Petroleum would have water, and Bud should stock up on water right away. So Bud made a second run and got another 20 gallons and he'll go tomorrow morning (before they close at 11 AM) and get 20 more.
Fuzzy is having trouble with incontinence and we need to get him to a vet. There's a good vet in Georgetown, but before we take the boat anywhere else we need to figure out what's going on with the rudder post. So that's our agenda for the next little while.
By the way, we never heard anything about the flare last night, so we think the Bahamians set it off for fun.
02/24/2012, Water Cay, Jumentoes
Well, you'll notice we aren't at Hog Cay anymore. It's my fault. I put our intentions in the blog yesterday and that always means the plans will change. The guy substituting for our weather guru put in the email version that winds would be 19 on Sunday and Monday and the general trend was for moderating winds. This morning, Chris Parker came on (he was only on SSB M,W,F this week, and the sub was doing the emails each day). Chris said 20 gusting 25 Sunday through Wednesday, with wind moderating on Thursday. That meant we couldn't cross those open water sections until next Friday (the swell would probably still be too big Thursday, after four days of high wind). We weren't prepared to stay another week, so after having made plans with folks for activities today, we hurriedly readied the boat for sailing and called them all and said good-bye as we were leaving the anchorage at just before 8 AM.
We decided to get the majority of the run back to Thompson Bay done today, as there was some wind. There was about 15 knots of wind mostly behind us as we crossed the first open area, and we had pretty good following seas. It was not bad sailing at all, but then Bud noticed that the bilge pump was running fairly often. I went down to investigate. I ended up tearing up our bed to look underneath and found that our rudder post was leaking . I took the helm and Bud went down and looked at it. It seemed to leak whenever there was sideways pressure on the rudder. So Bud eased the main and tried to keep the boat going as easy as possible. Once we got out of that rough part the leaking slowed down. We kept on, the wind got pretty light at times but we managed to sail 54 and a half nautical miles to put us here at Water Cay.
The anchorage isn't a good as at Flamingo. We weren't sure the Rocna was set. When we went out in the dingy and looked at it, it was set, but Bud had actually been able to drag it out through the mud. We aren't too worried, there is enough sand to hold through a pretty good wind and the wind is supposed to drop to 10 knots tonight and be only 8 to 10 knots tomorrow. We have plenty of chain out and we set the anchor alarm, so we'll be okay. There are probably better places to anchor along this island, but this is the only other beach (and it's tiny) south of the fishing boat anchorage that already had two boats in it. We probably could have fit there, and if the wind was going to be an issue we would have moved, but this will do for an overnight stop.
We checked the rudder post and it's not leaking now. Tomorrow will be a light day, probably motor-sailing most of the day and then we'll be back at Thompson Bay and we can see what needs to be done.
Bud was just out on the deck looking at the stars and he saw a flare. We put out a general call on our VHF radio to see if anyone knew what the flare was about. He got no answer. We'll leave our VHF radio on to see if anyone calls. It may be that the fishing boat just sent up one of their old flares. If I ever find out what it was, I'll let you know.
02/23/2012, Hog Cay, Ragged Islands
This morning we took stock of our water and dinghy gas and decided if Passages gave us water as they offered we could stay here until next week. The forecast has changed to less wind on Sunday and Monday, so we think we can probably cross the open channels by Tuesday. We do need to be careful with the dinghy gas. Bud filled the gas can today and has only about a half gallon left in the jerry can.
Two boats left the anchorage at Middle Pen, so Bud thought we'd save dinghy gas if we moved over there since both Passages and Maja are there. So we picked up the anchor and moved. The move went fine, the anchor came up and went down and set in the new spot without a hitch. We checked it with the viewing bucket and the Rocna is completely buried again.
Towards noon Bud, Fuzzy and I went to the beach. I went beach-combing with Ed and Karin on Passages. Bud ended up taking Fuzzy back to the boat as the dog was hot and wouldn't walk anyway. Ed and Karin and I went to the ocean side and looked for sea beans, particularly the striped hamburger beans. Another of the ladies here had told me you had to dig for them now, the ones lying right out were all taken. We took sticks and sort of raked the rows of washed up seaweed. Ed and I each found a hamburger bean, Karin found some sea glass, but no hamburger bean. Some of the cruisers here are constructing a shade house out of found bamboo. They asked us to bring back bamboo from the ocean side. Ed found four large pieces that he tied in a bundle with pieces of rope he found. Karin and I each had two long pieces of bamboo and the 6 to 8 foot pieces we'd used to rake the seaweed. Karin also found a good length of rope. It was a bit of a struggle carrying the long poles on the twisty trail through the brush, but we all managed to bring our bounty back. We left it stacked on the beach for tomorrow's construction.
When we got back one of the locals, nick-named Monkey Man, was going among the boats at anchor selling lobster. Bud bought two big lobsters and five little ones from him for $20. Bud took the whole lobsters, not just the tails, and Monkey Man told him again how to make rice flavored with the lobster fat found in the heads. He also told Bud to take the bottom few inches of the antenna, as there is a good deal of meat there. We're getting a lot of food for our money.
There was another burn party. This time I did get a picture of Fuzzy and the land hermit crab. There was only one out tonight, but it wandered over and climbed in Fuzzy's food dish. Then Fuzzy took note and followed it as it made its way to the bushes behind the clearing. I'll add the picture when I have Internet. I now have about 50 pictures to post, so when I finally get Internet access, I'll be a while.
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.