Dagny's Winter Cruise

19 March 2023
13 March 2023
09 March 2023
03 March 2023
25 February 2023
20 February 2023
16 February 2023
11 February 2023
06 February 2023
02 February 2023
28 January 2023
24 January 2023
19 January 2023
15 January 2023
12 January 2023
08 January 2023
05 January 2023
01 January 2023
29 December 2022

The Abacos At Last

19 March 2023
Allan Gray
When we arrived in the Spanish Wells area we decided to anchor on the east side of Meeks Patch for a couple of days prior to the arrival of the next cold front. The mile long island runs north south and with beaches on both sides it makes for a great anchorage in east or west winds. As mentioned in earlier posts there are a lot more boats around this year, and this was no exception as we discovered there were already 40 boats here when we arrived. Unlike Hatchet Bay there's a ton of room here and we managed to find a great spot on the east side of the island in 12 feet of water. It had been a while since we had easy dinghy access to a beach so we took full advantage of it. We were glad to get ashore and stretch our legs and just chill on the beach during the day while learning a few new card games in the evening.

The forecast called for the wind to shift north Tuesday afternoon in advance of the cold front's arrival with forecasted wind gusts to 40 knots during the night. As advertised around 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon the wind eased and shifted almost due north creating quite the scene in the anchorage. Within 30 minutes at least 30 boats hauled anchors and steamed 1 mile north to hide in the Lee of Russel Island. The high hills of the island provide great north wind protection and we found a good spot within 200 yards of shore and made sure the anchor was well set. During the evening we were treated to a spectacular light show as a huge line of thunderstorms rolled by 60 miles north of us. However, once again, we dodged a bullet as areas north and south of us we hit hard as the cold front passed through. At least 3 boats dragged ashore in the Exumas while the max gusts north of us hit 60 knots. Fortunately for us the high hills seemed to deflect the wind over us and we never saw gusts over 30 knots. By Wednesday morning the front had moved off to the south east leaving stiff northerly breezes that would keep us in the area until Friday.

We were anchored less than a mile from downtown Spanish Wells so we decided to take advantage of the downtime to replenish our stores. This would be the last good chance to provision and fuel for the next 2 weeks. We endured a few very wet dinghy rides to town
but we were happy to be able to explore this very picturesque town while tending to our needs.

However, after having been held up in Hatchet Bay and here, we were anxious to get moving to the Abacos. As usual plans were made, new forecasts were issued and plans were changed again and again. Finally we chose to leave Friday morning for the 60 mile trip to Little Harbour, the home of Pete's Pub. The alarm rudely awoke us at 5:30 so we could get a jump on the day and with coffee in hand we were on our way by 6. The day's forecast called for 12-18 knots of wind from the south east with 3-5 foot seas under sunny skies promising a good passage, and it was. We enjoyed a great sail as Dagny charged along in the rolling seas towing a green lure in honour of St. Patrick's. However, you guessed it, nothing again, not even a nibble and to add insult to injury one of our group landed 2 Mahi and lost a third.

Everyone made it safely through the narrow cut at Liitle Harbour and by 4 p.m. all the boats had arrived. The floatilla decided to head into Pete's for their St. Paddy's Day festivities where we could drown our sorrows while listening to everyone's fish stories. Following yet another long but rewarding day we were happy to crawl into bed by 10 for a well deserved sleep.

Today's picture is of a small sailboat we saw in the Exumas. A couple rented it from an outfitter in Georgetown, it came complete with all camping supplies needed for a week's gunk holing around the islands. The simplicity of it reminded me of my trip with Steve on my T22 all those years ago.

A Windy Week

13 March 2023
Allan Gray
When we arrived in the Bahamas back in December we were only given a 90 day visitor's visa even though the cruising permit for the boat was valid for 12 months. We had been informed that we could apply for an extension via email within 2 weeks of the expiry date. However, as we all know dealing with any government agency can be an exercise in frustration. While we were in Rock Sound we had applied for our extension but hadn't received any news by the time we had hoisted anchor a couple of days later. We weren't half way to our destination of Hatchet Bay when an email came in saying we had to go to the airport in Rock Sound and check in at the immigration office. Following an exchange of a couple of emails we were advised we could check in at the Governor's Harbour Airport instead. We decided to push on to Hatchet Bay and find a ride back to the airport. As soon as the anchors were down we headed ashore and managed to rent the bartender's car for a couple of hours for the 15 mile drive. Did I mention government bureaucracy, upon arrival at the airport, Immigration advised us they only handled passengers arriving by plane and we would have to go to the dock office in town another 10 miles south. Oh and by the way they close in 40 minutes. Luckily we made it in time and the very efficient officer had us on our way in no time with a 45 days extension of visa. After a hectic couple of hours we decided we should enjoy a beer on the deck over looking the harbour when we returned the bartender's car.

The forecast for the week was for several days of strong breeze as a couple of fronts moved quickly through the area. Hatchet Bay Harbour is one of the few places that offers 360 degree protection. Although we had arrived early and staked out a good spot we knew it would fill up as the week wore on. The down side of this well protected anchorage is some areas are 12 feet deep while others are 30 feet deep plus there is a lot of junk on the harbour floor making certain areas pretty sketchy. We happily rode out the first blow from the north without any issue but on day 3 the harbour filled up with boats looking to hide from strong west winds and that's when the fun began. A couple of late arrivals had anchored in what I thought weren't the best spots and when the wind shifted it wasn't pretty. I awoke Friday morning to find a Passport 47 off our port side that would swing to within 20 feet of us in wind gusts and a 35 foot cat on our starboard side not much further away. When I woke up the guy in the Passport and explained the situation he quickly sprung into action and moved his boat; however, the cat was a different story. He was convinced by letting out some more anchor rode it would solve the issue, wrong. As the day wore on and one boat after another dragged anchor he finally saw the light and moved. Yes, we could have moved instead but we had already ridden out a couple of days of strong winds before he arrived and we knew we had great holding. Fortunately, he finally took the high road and admitted he never should have anchored so close.

Despite the extra carriculur actives we had a great time in Hatchet Bay as the hot sunny weather continued. Besides hiking 2 miles to the beach on the Atlantic Ocean where we could see the sea in it's full fury we strolled around town checking out the sights. However, after Saturday's sh.tshow of boats dragging all over the place we were anxious to be on our way asap. When Sunday dawned bright and sunny with light winds, plans were quickly changed and we decided to get out of town. We've moved up to Spanish Wells and are anchored outside the harbour for a few days. Once the strong north winds blow through on Thursday we'll be heading for the Abacos where we hope to celebrate St. Patrick's Day at Pete's Pub.

Today's picture was taken by Lana while we were exploring the Hatchet Bay Caves.

Playing Tourist

09 March 2023
Allan Gray
We started off our stay at Rock Sound with dinner out at the Fish Fry with a group of 12 or so cruisers who were in town for the weekend. The Fish Fry was run by volunteers as a fund raiser for the various local recreation groups. A large beach gazebo was the base of operations for the evening as the volunteer staff served up tasty meals and of course sold ice cold beer. There was a junior Junkanoo competition scheduled for Saturday night so one of the local school teams ran their practice on the street in front of the fish fry much to everyone's the delight. A Junkanoo is a street parade with dancing, hand made colourful costumes and music often played on homemade instruments. At one point I turned to make a comment to Bev about the dancing only to find she and another girl were dancing down the street with the kids.

We had reserved a car for the weekend so we were up early on Saturday morning to pick up our ride and hit the road. Eleuthera is 110 miles long in a north south orientation but, in most places, is only a mile wide and good anchorages are few and far between. We had found renting a car is one of the best ways to see the sights. We set off with the crew of Sandbox for a full day of touring; our first stop was a visit to the Glass Window, a narrow 100 yard wide strip of rock that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Eleuthera Bank. The force of nature is on full display here, there are two rocks, bigger then a school bus that had been moved more than a mile during a hurricane. Our next stop was the Queen Anne Baths, which are protected tidal pools that are constantly filled and rinsed by the surging waves. The balance of the day was filled with exploring side roads, buying produce from a great local garden and visiting the pink sand beach that runs the length of the eastern shore. Our last adventure of the day was a return trip to the Hatchet Bay Caves which we had explored in 2019. We capped our day off with an early dinner in Governor's Harbour before heading back to the boats.
It had been a long fun filled day but we were a little anxious to get back to our dinghies which had been at the town dock since early morning. We had seen a few school buses heading south during the day and wondered what the attraction was. Well, when we arrived in Tarpon Bay we discovered that the Junior Junkanoo was scheduled to start at 8 p.m. The only road through town was jammed with traffic and both sides were lined with all the school teams preparing for the competition. With the help of the local police directing traffic we crept through town marvelling at the beautiful costumes. Unfortunately had we known the schedule we would have planned our day better and taken in the festivities.

Sunday was a repeat of Saturday, up early and head south to explore the bottom of the island. The south end of the island is less populated and has fewer attractions then the north end. There are a couple of beautiful high end marinas and gated communities that occupy the prime real estate. I am an admirer of lighthouses and looked forward to visiting the Old Point Lighthouse at the southern tip of the island. We were very disappointed to find that Disney has bought the whole southern tip of the island and are building a resort here. They have successfully closed off the road and the only way to see the lighthouse is to hike 2 miles down the beach at low tide. The gang was weary from the previous days exploring so we passed on the walk and headed back to town. It's a little sad to see the island being developed this way because in most cases the locals are not seeing any lifestyle improvements as a result of the revenue collected by the government. All in all we had a great two days exploring and Robert did a great job driving, we only had to remind him once or twice which side he should be on.

The tentative plan was to leave on Tuesday, so Monday was chores day. Rock Sound is a fairly busy town so food, fuel and water are readily available at decent prices. However, during our travels on the weekend Bev came in contact with what we think is poison wood, it's like poison ivy but worse. By noon there was a huge ugly blister on her toe and her foot was so swollen she couldn't bend her toes. We convinced her to stop at the local clinic and have it checked by a doctor. It's certainly not like a clinic at home, we paid 30 dollars to register, only waited 10 minutes to see the doctor who gave her a good check up and the 2 prescriptions were $21. As itchy as it was she refused to scratch it and after a day of the drugs there was a marked improvement.

Tuesday we moved 40 miles north to Hatchet Bay to stage for our run through Current Cut and our crossing to the Abacos. But all good plans are weather dependent and it seems we'll be held up here for a few days at least. There's a huge low sitting north east of Bermuda that is pushing rough seas into the area we need to cross. The 50 miles crossing can be a challenge at anytime so we'll hangout here for a few days to see what happens.

Today's picture was taken by Lana as we passed through Tarpon Bay.

Bye Bye Exumas

03 March 2023
Allan Gray
The time had come to finally come up with some sort of plan to start working our way north. We were reluctant to even talk about starting home but sadly the time is near. However, we were determined to make the best of our last week in the Exumas and we were blessed with great weather. We spent our last couple of days in Williams Bay hiking in the morning and snorkelling the crystal clear waters in the afternoon. We came up empty in our search for conch but did score a few more coconuts to ward off any chance of scurvy. On Monday we bid farewell to some friends who we met earlier in the winter and set off for Rudder Cay. Bev was still pitching a no hitter so we headed out the cut to try our luck at fishing with yet another new lure, but unfortunately she struck out again.

We were travelling with Sandbox again and decided that a final stop in Blackpoint for a Scopio's happy hour would be a good way to toast our great winter while making a plan for the next few days. As it turns out a mutual friend was celebrating a birthday and as often happens at Scorpio's things got a little out of hand. The balance of the week was spent exploring a couple of great new snorkelling areas we had been told about. As the week progressed we kept a close eye on the weather as we were looking for a weather window to sail to Rock Sound. After numerous deliberations we decided to move further north to Warderick Wells to stage for a Friday crossing to Eleuthra.

The alarm was set for 6:00 a.m. with a ETD of 6:30, for the 48 mile crossing to Rock Sound. The forecast was for SE winds 15-20 with gusts to 24 so we wisely reefed the main prior to exiting the bank via the Wardrick Cut. Bev was determined to catch a fish and the line was in the water as soon as we cleared the Marine Park boundary and we dragged it all the way to Eleuthera, and you guessed it, zilch, not even a bite. However, we enjoyed yet another fantastic sail as the wind never topped 19 knots as we made the trip in 7 hours from anchor up to anchor down. Maybe Dagny is too fast for the fish to catch the lure.

There's a Fish Fry and Junkanoo in town this evening and the harbour is filling up in anticipation of a fun time. There are probably 8 or 10 boats here that we have spent time with so it should be a fun evening. We'll be here for a couple of days before we continue north and will probably cross to the Abacos early next week. In the meantime we're going to rent a car with some friends tomorrow for a land tour of the area.

Today's picture is of a turtle in the shallow waters of Rudder Cay.

How We Plan Our Trips

25 February 2023
Allan Gray
While at home we frequently have friends ask us how and where we get our weather information and how we use it to plan our days. Fortunately cell coverage is very good throughout the Bahamas for the most part making weather data easy to obtain. The main sites we rely on are the same we use for sailing at home, Windy.com, Windfinder and Predict Wind, however we also subscribe to a weather service that is based in Florida. Chris Parker is the weather guru who most people rely on for detailed daily weather forecasts that are sent out via email but are also broadcast on SSB and streamed live at 6:30 a.m. Besides Chris's background as a professional meteorologist the 12 years he spent cruising the Caribbean and Bahamas provides him with an intimate knowledge of the area.

Below is an excerpt from a daily forecast that provides details for each region of the Bahamas. Those of you who are used to reading aviation forecasts as I am, may find these confusing at the beginning because he doesn't use the same format. However, once we got used to reading the forecast, synopsis and outlooks this has become our go to source.

S Part of C Bahamas(from Staniel Cay, Cat Island S-ward N Long Is.) ENE-E @10-18g22k today; NE-ENE@10-17g22k< 7-14g18k Sat25 Variable mostlyNE-E under 12k Sunday

The second thing we look closely at are the tide tables; unfortunately most electronic charts for the area have limited information. However, I found a local fishing website that provides reliable tidal information for numerous stations throughout the Bahamas. They even list the best times to fish, but that hasn't helped Bev yet as her luck hasn't changed.

Tuesday we relocated from Rudder Cay to Lee Stocking which involved transiting 2 narrow cuts on the Exumas bank. The winds were fairly light so that didn't play much of a factor in this particular decision but it was still important to time the tide correctly. Since the winds were light, but forecast to increase, we knew exiting Rudder Cay wouldn't be an issue even though we had to motor against a 2 knot flood tide. However, we wanted to enter Adderly Cut on the flood tide because it can get nasty in a hurry if not timed correctly.Knowing high tide was 9:30 we were off the anchor early and enjoyed an easy transit of both cuts, arriving in Williams Bay by 10 a.m.

Our friends on Sandbox will be arriving on Saturday from Georgetown with a load of groceries for us so in the meantime we have a few days to explore more of the area. Our time has been spent looking for conch, kayaking around the shallow bays admiring the huge Rays and hiking the island. I managed to find a couple of good coconuts, although they can be a challenge to open but the taste of fresh coconut makes it all worthwhile. Now if only we could find a few conch. We finally had a chance to meet up with 2 boats that we had crossed paths with several times on the way south and had a chance to enjoy a HH together.

Today's picture is of a huge Ray cruising along in 4 feet of crystal clear water.

Full Relaxation Mode

20 February 2023
Allan Gray
Ever since Lesley's departure we have found ourselves in full scale relaxation mode this past week. We had planned on leaving Staniel Cay on Thursday morning but as we lingered over coffee we asked ourselves, what's the rush? So we stretched out and watched the morning activities around the anchorage, it's time like this that the simple things keep us entertained. It is fun playing armchair quarterback as we watch people's many different ways to deploy and retrieve anchors. Being dog lovers the sight of a dinghy roaring by with a dog perched in the bow anxiously heading to shore always puts a smile on our faces. Finally, after an extra day at Staniel it was time to move on before the anchor grew into the bottom.

I had wanted to use our new staysail again and tinker with the equipment that had been added last year and the 15 -20 knot breeze on Thursday was the perfect opportunity. We left the anchorage under reefed main bound for Blackpoint and as we rounded Harvey's Cay the wind increased to 23 knots, a perfect test for the staysail. We were pleased with the performance of the sail and the reduced loads on the auto pilot which is an important factor during long passages. After a sporty sail we arrived in Blackpoint, dropped the hook and settled in for a few days.

You guessed it of course, Blackpoint equals laundry so that was first on the list. However, we spent the next couple of days either hiking,
kayaking, swimming or meeting new people at Scorpio's happy hour. Once again we decided we weren't going anywhere unless we had favourable winds so after a delightfully weekend Monday morning dawned sunny with a perfect 10 knot breeze to carry us the 17 miles to Rudder Cay. We did have to motor through a couple of narrow stretches near the anchorage but it had been another beautiful sail. However, we were surprised to see so many boats (21) in the anchorage, normally this time of year there would be a half dozen or so. Actually there are boats everywhere this year making it harder to find a secluded spot. We plan on heading to Lee Stocking Island tomorrow for a week or so as we look for a weather window to cross back over to Cat Island. With any luck maybe Bev will catch a fish, she's due for her luck to change and the freezer is getting empty.

Today's picture is of a couple of interesting rocks during low tide at Rudder Cay
Vessel Name: Dagny
Vessel Make/Model: Sabre 402
Hailing Port: South Lancaster On
Crew: Allan Gray and Bev Bethune
About: Allan is a retired Montreal Air Traffic Controller and Bev is a retired Elementary School Principal.
Extra: After many years of local cruising and Etchells racing we are living our dream of sailing to the Bahamas. Allan enjoys golfing, cycling and skiing. Bev is an active cyclist, runner, aerobics participant and cross country skier.

Who: Allan Gray and Bev Bethune
Port: South Lancaster On