05/06/2012, White-Devil's-Hoffman Anchorage, Berry Islands
We've had two nice days at this anchorage now, with almost no swell. At one point there were four boats in here. There are three of us left. The boat that came in first after us is still here, they are a couple from Germany who've been living in Florida for many years and are US citizens. They have a dog, it looks like a reddish, brown Scottish Terrier. The other boat is a couple from Australia, their 12 year old daughter and two little white dogs. When we went to the beach with Fuzzy last evening they were ashore. One of them is a Jack Russell Terrier named Sam. He seemed a bit aggressive and we were worried about Fuzzy. Sam was interested, but polite. Fuzzy was completely unaware until he turned around and Sam was right behind him. Fuzzy was unfazed and Sam continued to be polite. Sam was a bit skittish in meeting Bud and me, then Bud was petting him and leaned down close to him and Sam bit Bud's nose! By time Bud got his shirt off, to keep it from getting bloody, and his nose rinsed enough so the blood was slowing our dinghy had started to float away. That brought an abrupt end to the trip to the beach. This morning, Sam's owner, Ian, came over and brought "medicine" for Bud's nose, some nice fresh Red Snapper they'd caught and some home made chocolate chip cookies. Not a bad take for a misjudgment on Bud's part.
Earlier in the day yesterday, Bud had gone snorkeling on the reef outside of White Cay, that forms the eastern barrier of the anchorage. I went along in the dinghy and read while he snorkeled. He pronounced it one of the best reefs he's seen in the Bahamas, so today we went back and both went snorkeling. Bud took his spear both days but didn't get anything. Before Bud had even gotten in the water I saw about a 4 foot shark. I just looked it up and I think it was a Blacktip Shark. Once I saw the shark I was hoping Bud would not spear any fish. It's one thing to have sharks follow your catch on the line, quite another when you're all in the water together. It was a nice area. There was a lot of soft coral and fire coral, some hard coral and many, many fish. I'm always frustrated when I get back that I've seen so many specimens I can't remember details to identify them in our guides. I don't have an underwater camera, so I just try to enjoy them. Bud saw another shark that looked like it was sleeping on the bottom, that was a nurse shark. Then, just as he was snorkeling over towards the dinghy he saw a really big shark. He thought it was about ten feet long. That ended the spear fishing for him!
Tomorrow we'll listen to the weather report and try to figure our next steps, but for this interlude of light winds we're certainly enjoying where we are.
05/04/2012, White-Devil's-Hoffman Anchorage, Berry Islands
I said we were tired after yesterday. I don't think I realized how tired. I always wake up early and got a picture of the sunrise that I'll add to the gallery when we get Internet again, but I didn't have the energy to do much beyond the basics. I took a picture of the boat in the anchorage, which I'll add to this post. I actually took a nap in the afternoon and slept. I can't remember the last time I've slept during the day.
Bud snorkeled a bit. He's also very tired, but he can't seem to sleep. It has been noisy sitting on the bridle in the surge. The boat has new motions and new noises. The wind is dropping. We expect it to be very light tomorrow. The bad news is we don't have enough solar panels, so without the work of the SuperWind we'll probably have to run the generator. Probably a good trade for having the surge stop.
This evening I walked for a few minutes when we took Fuzzy ashore. He and Bud stayed on the beach. I noticed that a lot of the bushes are now in flower, or about to flower. No doubt in response to all the rain that's fallen in the last couple of weeks. I took pictures of some of the flowers. I was getting close to another bush to check out the flowers when I noticed they weren't flowers at all, but little hermit crabs clinging to the branches. I took a picture of one of those too. It's the first time I've seen them anywhere but on the ground.
We expect to be here a few days as there are a number of light air days ahead. We will move again in anticipation of some good sailing weather, as we have one short hop and then two long sails to get back to Florida. Our next stop is a marina, and we don't want to sit there in waiting for the wind. I have a feeling that if no-see- ums invade when the wind goes we'll move to the marina so Bud can close up the boat and put the air conditioning on. We don't have a screen for our companionway, and if the wind is light the other hatches and ports just don't let in enough air to cool the boat. As usual, our plans will change to fit the circumstances.
05/03/2012, White-Devil's-Hoffman Anchorage, Berry Islands
The wind is supposed to be decreasing day by day. Also, we're headed north, and the northern Bahamas are having lighter wind. All that said we did leave Nassau at 9 this morning for the relatively short run (35 nm) to our anchorage in the Berry Islands. With all the concern about decreasing winds, we hadn't really worried about waves. Wrong. We exited Nassau Harbour into some heavy rollers, probably 5 feet on average. Since we had to come out through the busy harbor with cruise ships and freighters we didn't have the main up. We had to motor out a ways to let a freighter go by before we could turn to put the main up. I had my life jacket on because the deck was rolling a lot. I had to go up to the mast and release the lazy jacks and untie and pull up the main halyard. Once those things were done I held the boat into the wind while Bud raised the main. Normally at that point we shut the engine off. Today, in the heavy seas, Bud left the engine on until we had the jib out and some way on. The motion settled down, but it was a rolly ride.
A new twist in our sailing is listening for the bilge pump. Since we're using the spare prop, and it is fixed, the prop and shaft continue to turn while we sail. It's noisy. Not only that, because the shaft is turning, the stuffing box is dripping water (as it should), and because we've never been satisfied with the shaft alignment we have the stuffing box drip quite a lot. That puts water in the bilge, so every once in a while the bilge pump comes on. But if we're on a starboard tack and the left side of the boat is heeled down, the bilge pump switch is lower than the water pick up, so the pump won't switch off. So you either have to turn the boat to where it's level, or use the hand bilge pump to empty a bit more water out until the pump stops. So these days whenever we're on a starboard tack (and heading north in prevailing east winds you're always on a starboard tack) we have this on-going conversation about noises. Is that a powerboat, an airplane or the bilge pump?
Not too far north the waves did calm down. We were still crossing the Northwest Providence Channel, and there was still nothing east of us but the Atlantic, but perhaps the Abaco Islands to our northeast were giving us some protection. Anyway, the wind stayed around 12 knots for the day, the waves calmed down some and we made between 6 and 7 knots for most of the trip. We got to the anchorage at about 3:30.
We were the only boat in the anchorage and we picked a good spot and got the anchor set without any problems. Bud backed on it up to 1400 RPM, no change to the sounds from the prop. Oh but then the fun began. This anchorage is marked as having surge. That's when the waves outside the anchorage cause small waves inside the anchorage. We've never had a problem here before, and this is the third time we've anchored here. Today, the wind was keeping the boat pointed more or less east, but the surge was coming from the entrance to our south, so was hitting us broadside. The boat was rocking from side to side up to a bit more than 10 degrees either way. And we had to launch the dinghy and put the engine on it. We managed to do everything with no accidents. Not bad considering the dinghy was going up and down about three feet relative to the boat. We took our trusty viewing bucket and checked the Rocna, it was set.
After Bud went down in the cabin and had to take a motion sickness pill he started to think about the situation. He remembered reading about a way to get the boat facing into the waves, so the motion is reduced. We found the information in Nigel Caulder's "Cruising Handbook". Bud took the hook we'd unsuccessfully tried to use on our anchor snubber and tied our 50 foot dock line to it. Then we pulled the anchor up a bit and removed the snubber, pulled it up some more and put that hook on it. Bud led the line back to the winch and I let the anchor chain back out and Bud winched the line, so now the boat is held at an angle between the bow and the winch (which is about two-thirds of the way back, at the cockpit). I set the snubber again. It was better, but we decided we needed more anchor chain out, so I pulled some back in so I could again untie the snubber. Bud went down to the anchor locker and pulled up more chain from the lower locker to the upper locker, so it would pull out, and we let out more chain, winched the line in again, and it worked! So I tied on the snubber again and we put chafe guard on the snubber and the 50-foot line and we are set. Finally.
We are both tired, it turned into a long day (second one in a row) but it was good to try something new and have it work.
05/02/2012, Nassau Harbor Club, Nassau, New Providence
We hoped to be on our way for the 50-mile trip to Nassau by 8 AM. I checked my watch as I walked back to the cockpit with our mooring lines; it was 7:56. We'd already taken Fuzzy ashore, pulled the engine off the dinghy and put the dinghy in the davits. We had the main up and we were on our way.
There was a pretty good wind all day, it was a bit aft of the beam, so it was a broad reach. Even on the protected banks side of the Exumas there were some pretty good waves, the biggest ones about 4 feet. That's from four days of winds mostly over 20 knots. Today the wind was under 20, but we still sailed all day at around 7 knots. About 10 miles into our trip a boat crossed in front of us from the east. Once he passed us he turned more north and ran parallel to us. The boat seemed smaller than we were and we expected to overtake him. We never did. We ran just behind him for the next 30 to 40 miles, and in the end they came into the same marina we did. I met them in the office and asked what kind of boat it was, it was a Bristol 41, the boat our friends Rick and Tracy would love to have. Boy, that boat could sail, and it had a roller furling main, too. It didn't hurt that the couple aboard are experienced small boat racers, I'm sure.
We got to Nassau about 3:30 PM and decided to try to get all our chores done so we could leave for the Berry's tomorrow. There should still be pretty good wind tomorrow. After that we're supposed to have a few days of light winds, and we'd rather be at anchor in the Berry's for that than stuck in Nassau. I did the wash and filled the water tank. Bud walked to the grocery store and took a cab back with the groceries. The goody net is full again, as you can see from the picture.
Our friends Jeri and Ingo, who also have a Norseman 447 (Ladyhawke), were due in Nassau today. They were planning to go to Nassau Yacht Haven. We thought about going there but decided to come to Nassau Harbour Club because it's right across the street from the grocery store. Except we found out the grocery store here is closed. It was sold and the new owners are remodeling. Bud had to walk right by Nassau Yacht Haven on his way to the other store. So he stopped and found Ingo and we made arrangements to meet them for supper. Wash, water, food and beer were all on-board by 6:15. Fuzzy had been fed and walked. We headed back up the street to the Poop Deck Restaurant, right outside their marina. We had a good meal and a good time. We might have lingered longer talking to Jeri and Ingo but we realized we'd forgotten again to leave a light on for Fuzzy. We got back to the boat about 9 PM and Fuzzy was crying in the dark. It must be tough to be an old blind and crippled dog with old and forgetful owners. Happily Fuzzy does not hold grudges.
By the way, since I bought Internet access here, I added a picture for yesterday's entry and posted the pictures from my walk to the gallery.
05/01/2012, Hawksbill Cay, Exuma Land and Sea Park
We had thought of going up to the Island of Eleuthera and then straight across to the Berry Islands, without going to Nassau. For a few reasons we decided against that. Bud had wanted to avoid docks, but anchoring is as bad or worse on the prop than docking. If we went via Eleuthera we'd be anchoring, probably three times before we got to the Berry's, verses this route which puts us on another mooring ball for tonight and then to a dock tomorrow. Besides, we can get water in Nassau without having to haul it in jerry jugs, and Bud's back has had enough of that for a while. Finally, going to Eleuthera meant crossing the Exuma Sound, and though the weather broke enough today for us to sail the 13 miles up the banks to this island, it's still not a day I'd like to be out on the sound. The downside to this route is we are reversing the route we took coming down, and not visiting new places. With our uneasiness about the prop that doesn't seem like a bad idea, though.
The weather did break. This morning most of the clouds were gone and the wind was down, so we decided to make this short hop. We left at just after 10 AM, used just the jib, sailed at between 5.5 and 6.5 knots and were secure on this mooring be 12:30. We're moored on the lee side of the island, and not in a cut, so there is virtually no current here. Bud took advantage of that to snorkel down and check the prop. It all seems okay, it hasn't loosened up at all that he could tell. More good news.
Since we had the afternoon, I wanted to take advantage of it and hike some trails. I thought there were trails right off the beach here, but there aren't. Bud took me in the dinghy to the next beach north and I hiked to the Exuma Sound side. I tried then to hike to a second beach further north, but the last quarter mile of that trail was along the sloping ironshore right above the surf. I'd only worn my Crocs, and trying that seemed like an invitation to disaster, so after only about an hour and a half of hiking I came back. This time Bud wanted me to use channel 16, since there's no radio traffic here. I think we better just stick to 16 all the time, at least for hailing. We can (and did) switch to another channel once we'd made contact. Anyway, this time I reached him immediately and he graciously came back in the dinghy to pick me up. I got some nice (I hope) pictures which I'll post once we have Internet again. This is very remote, no Internet and no telephone, so I'll post this update via the radio. If the weather doesn't throw any surprises at us we plan to move on to Nassau tomorrow. I should have Internet there.
04/30/2012, Warderick Wells Cay, Exuma Land and Sea Park
Today was very much like yesterday. In the morning we had periods of rain, some heavy, some lighter. During one of the lighter times we took poor Fuzzy ashore. He wasn't at all happy about getting wet. This little bird might have been trying to stay dry, too. It flew into our cockpit and then into the cabin. It's a Bananaquit, a common little bird here. It stayed long enough for me to get its picture and then it flew out again.
After lunch the rain stopped, but the wind was back up over 30 knots again. The good thing about the wind is that the wind generator has been able to keep the batteries charged. We've only run the diesel generator once since leaving the Marina at Emerald Bay on the 18th. We leave the refrigerator and freezer switched on all the time, we charge the computer and i-Pad when they need it, and the batteries are staying well charged.
Bud and I braved the wind and went over to park headquarters. We bought t-shirts for ourselves and for our grandson and paid for another night. We got wet from the spray from the waves in the harbor, but didn't get rained on. Later in the afternoon we actually saw some blue sky. Everyone is remarking on this weather. For the past 10 days it's been cloudy far more than it's been sunny, and that is very unusual for this time of year. Hopefully the breaks in the clouds we saw this afternoon are an indication of what's to come. The weather forecast calls for a gradual moderation. If the wind stays around that's okay, but the clouds and squalls can leave at any time and we'll be happy.