04/07/2012, 24 15.19N 076 30.73W
I'm trying to do this blog post thru the SSB radio interface...hope it works!
We left Nassau for Highborne Cay in the Exumas Tuesday (4/3), arriving in the mid-afternoon. We had an easy motor over the banks with no wind & flat seas. Looking at the bottom in 20' of water, you could see every little detail in the sand! Lots of starfish, some sea cucumbers & a few (lemon?) sharks.
The next day we left for Norman's Cay. This was the Bahamas HQ for the Columbian cocaine dealer Carlos Lehder in the lates 70's & early 80's. By the looks of all the run-down buildings, he had a major operation there at one time. On the way, we went out into the Exuma Sound fishing in 90' - 2500' of water - no luck. After anchoring, we explored the southern section of the island (where Lehder's buildings were located). Thw weather predictions were for the wind to clock around to the West, then NW and N with the possibility of squalls & 50kt - 60kt winds! As we were in a good spot for that weather, we decided to stay put. However, the winds for the evening were predicted to be very light - unfortunately that was incorrect as they picked up a LOT after midnight.
The next morning I discovered the dinghy was missing! A sailor anchored next to us answered my radio call for help & took me all around the (long) lagoon, but no dinghy. Shortly after that, I took Windy to shore on the kayak & under the decrepit docks lay the dinghy - with the motor under it half-buried in the sand.
We spent the last 2 days a few miles south of Morgan's Bluff, anchored in Conch Bay - that had NO conch! The route was between the barrier reef & the island with occasional coral heads strewn about. It was slow motoring with both of us watching for shallow spots. The guide book says you could do this with a 5' draft boat - I was scared a couple times with only 3' !!! We anchored about a mile from the reef - actually lots of clumps of coral-encrusted areas. Some are 5' to 50' around and some are the size of 2-3 city blocks. East of these is a rock/sand shallows with scattered small coral. That slopes down quickly into the Tongue of the Ocean (8000'). As the breakers were not something we wanted to brave with the dinghy, we stayed on the inside & hit several different outcrops. NO lobster ): Lots of fish, not many that I knew were edible. In close to 5 hrs of snorkeling over 2 days I had 2 non-fatal hits (they got away LOL). Got lots of exercise tho :D There were fish that I might have been able to spear, but I didn't know whether they were edible or not & didn't want to kill something I couldn't eat. I'm looking for a fish book in Nassau!!! LOL
Our guess is that the whole reef area has been fished out. With nothing to catch, we're heading to Nassau.
Sat afternoon - we entered Nassau Harbor about 4pm and anchored in a large area with lots of oter boats. We're going to a marina slip tomorrow in order to do laundry & re-provision the galley. We left Conch Bay about 9:30am, worked our way up the inside passage to a channel through the reef. The 1st half of the trip was motoring against light winds. Shortly after noon the wind strengthened & shifted so that we could use the sails (& increased our speed form 6 mph to 7.5-8).
Finally, I found out howw to add the Gallery link to the blog. However, I'll still include a shot of our 3rd crew member doing what she does best :D
03/28/2012, Andros Island
We hauled anchor & left Alicetown at 8:35 am on Friday (3/23), rounding the north end of the island at North Rock and then heading straight across the Bahamas Grand Bank. Almost 80 miles of just water that varied from 5-6' in places to 20' in a couples areas. Getting most the way across the Bank, we anchored overnight at 9 pm with 10kt wind & 2' seas. Sunday morning we headed towards Andros Island.
As Windy had shown NO inclination to use her astroturf "busy spot", we pulled to withing 1/2 mile of a small, deserted cay (pronounced "key") and ferried her in with the dinghy. In a short exploration, we found a run-down house on the high section of land - it looked like it would be a great place to live, if you wanted seclusion & beauty.
Saturday afternoon we came into the bay at Morgan's Bluff - on the northeast shore of Andros. Brad took the kayak into town and by the time I got in with Windy in the dinghy, he knew everyone in town. By Sunday afternoon, our "private" anchorage was being shared with 2 other sailboats & 2 (motor) trawlers.
Morgan's Bluff is a quaint town/village - it has 1 bar, a secluded harbor & a gas station (that I've never seen open). The bar does a bustling business though. And it has wifi, so I can make blog posts. (:
Near here is Morgan's Cave - supposedly where he stashed all his treasure. Of course, no one has ever found it.
This area feels more like the "real" Bahamas than Bimini, which was in some ways a tropical extension of Miami. The wind picked up over the past couple days but is supposed to moderate greatly for the next several days. So we're leaving the secluded bay tomorrow & heading along the east side of the island - home of the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world (behind Australia & the Keys). We hope to be able to pick up fresh fish & lobster.
I'm adding pics of our crew and a few of where we have been so far. It is beginning to feel more like we're in the islands & leaving civilization (& the rat race) behind. Although most every morning Brad asks if I called in sick to work. LOL
One good aspect of the wind is it keeps the batteries fully charged. The solar cells (135W & 85W) oput out a lot during the day, but have, naturally, a limited time when they produce power. On the other hand, the wind generator spins 24 hr a day! (:
OK - I uploaded a bunch of photos, added text to them & now realize there is no way to see them! ): I'm working on that glitch - probably a user error. LOL
The wind is moderating & is supposed to be down to 12-14 mph Friday & Saturday, so we're cating off early tomorrow (Fri, 3/24) morning. The original plan was to head for the Berry Islands. But then we met Robert "Island Doctor" - who is anchored next to us. Robert grew up in Nassau and the surrounding islands and recommended that we go to Andros instead. So Andros it is! The eastern shore of Andros has the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world with 1500' water just off shore and 6000' a few miles further out. Yet the reefs are all accessible by snorkling.
We will be crossing the Great Bahamas Bank and will be traveling almost 90 miles before encountering land (although most of the bank is only 6' - 15' deep). We plan to anchor over-night on the Bank so we have good light when coming off it into areas littered with corals, which requires visual piloting. It's good to have only a 3' draft too!
Bimini & Alicetown have been fun, but after 2 days, you can see the whole town 5 times over. Next to Alicetown is Baileytown. I found out that 2 good friends (I originally met thru ToastMasters) were in Baileytown. So I borrowed a bike & went visiting to see Moksha & Arlene at Wildquest (where they take people out on a 41' sailing cat and look for dolphins). We had a wonderful visit (& I enjoyed a terrific lunch while meeting the others in the group) while I was amazed at what a samll world this can be.
03/19/2012, Alicetown, Bimini, Bahamas
We decided to believe the NWS (Nat'l Weather Service) forecast for Friday, 3/16 out of Miami - 12 - 15 kt NE winds with 2'-3' seas. And we had those conditions for half the crossing. Then we got into 20 kt winds with 5' (estimated, since it was dark - probably some 6'+ ones as well). As we were tacking across the Gulf Stream, it took 12 hrs (rather than the 7-8 with a S wind). We were about 10 miles from Bimini (still dark) when we took a series of much bigger waves that first filled up the dinghy with water & then bent one of the davits 90 degrees! I thought that we were going to lose the dinghy at first, but Brad cut loose the davit line to release the pressure & we ended up towing it into the anchorage.
Once in Bimini, we also discovered a pin-hole leak in the port engine fuel line. Margi has worked expeditiously to find a replacement part (in Tampa) & make arrangements to have it shipped over. Luckily it will make the once-a-week mail boat. (:
As it turns out, we need to stay here till Friday anyway waiting for the strong winds to abate.
03/15/2012, Miami, FL
All of a sudden S Fla has "beautiful" weather day after day....with winds out of the E or NE. All those S winds that showed up all Jan & Feb behind fronts have vanished. ): So, being tired of looking at the Miami skyline & seeing slightly moderated weather, we're making the jump to Bimini tomorrow (Fri) night. We'll be tacking across the Gulf Stream, but the waves should not be too bad even though it will make for a long trip as we hope to get into Bimini Sat morning sometime.
Right now, we are in the Miami Beach Marina - hence wifi to do updates (not free unfortunately).
Also - I added a group of pictures of the boat, so you can see a bit of where we're living. And, here's a pic (none came out really well) of 2 of the dolphins that were swimming with us on the way down.