A Travellerspoint blog

January 2012

Great Guana Cay

overcast 83 °F

We topped off fuel on Saturday, using 10-gal. The fuel dock was a good hike from our boat so Carol and I schlepped the two jerry cans there and got them filled. The man who filled the cans got a little "incensed" when we started to carry them back; he wanted to do that for us for no good reason other than to be nice! I don't know if there is a genetic trait for being nice but if there is it's deeply rooted in the DNA code of the Bahamians.

We saved topping off the water for Sunday morning before getting underway. There are some mistakes that require a specific sequence of steps that seem too improbable to happen ... ever, but always do. To wit, as I was filling the tanks, and taking longer than I thought it should, Carol called out that the head was flooded and was within 1/2-in. of spilling over the threshold into the main cabin. I had (1) left the shower faucet on/open the evening before and, (2) also left the water switch in the ON position when I checked the tank levels. We were pouring water into the head faster that I was putting it into the tanks. Full tilt stupid and almost an identical repeat of what happened at Dinner Key Marina on our first trip south! There the water was free; this time I estimate that there was $4.00 to $6.00 sloshing around in there. Due to the spill I don't have an accurate gauge on our actual consumption from Nassau to Staniel Cay. However, it must be running at less than 2-gal. per day and is probably closer to 1-gal. per day. Whatever the number may be on that spectrum with 110-gal. on board we are in good shape.

I woke up very early Sunday morning trying to figure out how we were going to get off the dock that morning. Not only was the wind an issue, pushing us onto the dock, a large boat was moored about 5-ft. from our stern. It was pretty wide, at least 15-ft. I knew that there was going to be a period that morning when the wind died and that was the target time to leave. Well, the water issue put paid to that plan; then a rain squall blew through. So we split the difference. While we waited the boat behind us left but the wind had picked up. Carol thinks that It Takes a Village to get anything done; I believe in self reliance. I'm the captain; we did it my way, but not easily and not well and with Carol, not quietly. We finally pushed the boat far enough from the dock be able to use the motor to get positive movement and everything went well after that.

The trip was less than 10 nm and did not take very long. We anchored, no problems; David was swimming in the area and checked our anchor set, said that it was good; I went out later to look for myself to see what "good" looks like so that I can evaluate in the future. Of the 5/6 boats closest to us, we know or have met the folks on five of them. It's a small cruising world.

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This morning we watched several boats get underway for Farmers Cay, including Debbie's boat, S/V Illusions. She, and one other boat, raised her mainsail prior to raising her anchor and sailed out of the anchorage. It looked pretty cool and we will, probably, try it tomorrow when we leave.

After I finished my WSJ and tea, I went below to find that Carol was tearing apart the front cabin, her closet/pantry/whatever, without any bidding from me. She had decided, quite on her own, that she wants to be able to use the shower in the head as a shower rather than as a storage locker, the impetus coming at Staniel Cay where she wanted a shower to wash her hair and, in her words, almost cried when told that they did not have guest showers at the marina. Back (1) to washing her hair in the sink and (2) cleaning, actually rearranging, the head. I like the idea, water usage not withstanding. It has always been rather like walking into a cave with stalactites and stalagmites surrounding me so less stuff in there will be nice.

Having left the dock at Staniel Cay, if not successfully, without any apparent damage to us or the dock, this morning I woke up worrying about wind and weather. While I lay in the cabin and listened to the wind whipping through the shrouds and rigging I guessed 20 knots. When I finally got up and turned on the wind instrument it was 19 knots, not too bad, and not enough wind to present a problem. I look at two weather forecasts that extend to two weeks, a functionally useless time frame since weather forecasts out past 48 hours tend to have a lot of room for change. Both of these forecasts have been predicting a period of heavy winds, 30~35 knots about 10/11 days in the future. As he forecasts update the high winds always stay out there at the 10/11 day window. This got me to thinking that, while they have been wrong about the timing, at some point that situation will happen. So, we now have a nine step plan, in two parts, that we can follow if we are at anchor and the winds get troublesome. Not much original, and a lot of advice from Mike S. on what he has done when the crunch came. It's reassuring to have this plan to follow rather than having to deal with the situation in an ad hoc manner under duress.

We thought that we had finished all of the hard cover books, many left at marinas along the way; this would amount to several thousand pages, one book having gone to 900 pages. Carol found several more that will go to the head of the reading list. We have started saving the books rather than leaving them so the we will have some "currency" to join the library in George Town when we arrive in the next week or so. We thought that we had all three of the Stieg Larsson books; but Carol, having finished the first two, is unable to find the third. But, she still has another wrapped "brick" of books to check. We are two months into the trip and the the supply looks about sufficient to the remaining duration, but it could be a close call. I am sure that we will be swapping out books which mean that running out should be a remote, but disastrous, possibility.

We had a short walkabout on the island. This is the first island on which we have been without any obvious commercial enterprise, usually a marina with attendant businesses. It appears that the only jobs here are small owned businesses, e.g. restaurants and stores, or the government enterprises, e.g. BaTelCo, Water and Sewer, Bahama Electric. It is a pleasant place, even more low key than others we have visited. This looked like a place that sees a lot of action on a Saturday night.

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These flowers took root in the crevices of the rocks, beauty finding a way.

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We have heard and read about a peculiar type of Bahamian racing sailboat called: C class boats. We finally got to see some here. These boats are called catboats, or some variation of that name, with the mast almost all the way forward and they look awesome; they have a sail to waterline/weight ratio that cannot compute ... very tall masts and booms longer than the boats themselves. We saw one in a yard and it was not surprising that they have very full, deep keels for boats their size. We may get to see some race at Farmers Cay.

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Ziveli, at anchor

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Coming back to the boat at noon we thought to get underway for the short trip to Farmers Cay. But the weather turned fairly ugly so that plan is in abeyance until the morning. This a good anchorage with good holding and decent protection from the east winds.

Posted by sailziveli 12:20 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boating bahamas tourist_sites Comments (0)

Staniel Cay

sunny 77 °F

The commute wasn't too bad. We upped anchor at Big Majors Spot at about 0930 because the marina said that slack water would be near 1030 and arrived just a few minutes ahead of that time having proceeded very slowly. The wind continued unabated from the SE at 17 knots. We worked our way to the channel although the chart plotter had a span of water at 5-ft, but the slack water was at high tide so we were OK. There is a nasty shoal/reef between the narrow channel and the marina and a big sailboat was anchored right in the wrong place, the equivalent of a semi parking in the middle of an exit ramp on the expressway. F.... Him! seemed like the best policy so we came very close to his anchor line, closer than was polite, but did not actually cause a problem.

I should have seen this one coming but blew it. We had requested a berth wherein the SE wind would push us toward the dock; an easy landing versus a difficult exit. Things were looking pretty good and then the marina guy said that he wanted us farther up the dock, not at the end of the dock where I was headed. I was screwed; I tried to get some forward momentum by revving the engine, but the requested wind was in charge and only accomplished a game of bumper cars, caroming down the dock until folks took pity on the old guy and tried to salvage the situation. It looked like a 911 call and I know what those look like. 15 people helping to manage 3 lines, trying not to embarrass the captain, moi! We finally got moored and, I hate this part, people came by saying that they thought that I did pretty well CONSIDERING THE WIND! Humility is an earned trait and I have earned more than my unfair share.

When at Warderick Wells Cay we took that dinghy ride to Rendezvous Beach where we met and chatted briefly with David, an Australian, and his boat person/partner/crew, Dana, she being from Washington state, a relationship that Carol and I are too old to understand, if it is in fact even a relationship as we would understand that term. Turns out that we are moored directly behind his boat.

So the four of us headed over to the "store" where Carol dropped off our laundry. She's liking this part, moving from doing laundry to managing laundry; she was an executive and has a graduate degree, after all. There was a thatched pavilion at the store; while the others were doing business I went out to sit in the shade and ended up engaging one man in conversation. It was wonderful; he owns a business in Nassau and was here to visit his mother. One of the items we discussed was all the incomplete construction on the several islands, something that David had also noticed. His explanation was interesting. He said that these are retirement homes on the family islands. The construction is proceeding apace with the plan to be completed in several years. People take time off to work on the houses; this year a foundation; next year a course or two of cinder block and so on until the target retirement date when a lot of stuff gets done all at once. It seemed credible. He also said that lots here, on Staniel Cay, were going for $1 million. The locals can afford housing because their land had been owned by their families for generations.

Talking with David was also interesting both culturally and generationally, he being in his mid twenties. Our governing concept, family, kids, house, career, is alien to him, at least at this point. He's a boat and water guy, and if those two things can somehow give him some sustenance, he seems to be good with that. Aspirations, goals, long term do no seem to be part of the deal except, maybe, getting the boat back to Australia. He mentioned that he had been to Cuba and scuba dived at the Bay of Pigs, seemingly without any sense of the history of that place. Still, he is a very pleasant, very personable young man and we enjoyed the afternoon and we will probably see him again as both boats head south. Hanging out with people young enough to be our grandchildren is interesting.

Some work did get done. We cut my hair again, no pony tails for this sailor despite how cool Mel Gibson looked in Mutiny on the Bounty, greasy hair! And, I cleaned the cockpit which after about 10 days looked pretty much like a land fill. I'm not sure how that area gets so dirty. Maybe it's windborne. We will have to get used to a dirty boat, or one cleaned only with buckets of salt water. At 40 cents a gallon, or more on some islands, if I don't get a fresh water bath then the boat doesn't get a fresh water bath.

Friday being January 27th, our anniversary, we think, we went out to dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club; it sounds better than it actually is. Carol has bought two new dresses this trip and tonight she wore the first of those, purchased in Ft. Lauderdale. It must have been a big night: she washed her hair and made a point of mentioning that she was actually putting on eye makeup, a first this trip she said, as if I would have ever noticed.

To get to the restaurant area we had to walk through the bar which had the ubiquitous large screen TV's showing sports. So, what's on TV? Cross country skiing -- blond, Scandinavian white guys named Anders and Bjorn wearing Lycra suits and sweating on the snow. Go Figure. Cool Runnings is alive and well on a small island in the Bahamas.

Dinner was nice; they started with conch chowder, which I actually tried. However, when we got back to the boat I felt an almost irresistible impulse to put a fish hook in my mouth and to flop around on the deck. Carol had lobster and was glowing and radiant, as all women are on special occasions when they feel special. I liked the Key Lime pie and complimented her eye make up.

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One of the reasons that I was eager to come to Staniel Cay was,"Bond, James Bond," this being where the grotto scene from the movie Thunderball was filmed. Every skinny, goofy, dorky guy like me wanted to Sean Connery, pretty much the epitome of cool in that role.

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I had hoped to snorkel into the grotto which is just part of a chunk of rock out in the harbor formed by several islands including Staniel Cay. That is best done at the slack water following a low tide which this day will be after 2200, 10PM; so, that is not going to happen. Disappointing, but only a little bit. I'll just have to keep trying to find the bikini babes from the poster, a pretty good consolation prize for an older guy. The grotto is in the right hand most of the three islands.

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I saw this in the bar last night when I wasn't watching cross country skiing. For me it was like a magnet; for most others, white noise, a part of the background. The flag in the shadow box was the one carried and used by Henry Stimson, Sec. of War, at the 1945 Yalta conference, that conference being an important part of history for the 20th century. Why it should be in a bar on Staniel Cay instead of the National Archives or the Smithsonian is a mystery to me and almost all others on the island.

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Carol had her walkabout this morning ... less sun, cooler temperatures; I had mine this afternoon, more sun, warmer temperatures. I walked over to the windward side of the island to Ocean Beach. So far, all of the windward sides in the Exumas have been intimidating for sailing vessels. This one also had pretty water.

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There is a much used fish cleaning station here at the marina. Predictably, marine animals have figured this out, in this case, nurse sharks. They are not the most dangerous of the breed, and the largest of these was probably no more that 5-ft.; but each does come equipped with a standard set of very sharp teeth and a big appetite. It's hard to see but there were about 25, maybe more, in the area and perhaps a dozen in the picture. These guys were fairly polite about the whole thing -- no feeding frenzy, no eating each others tails, but petting and wading was not advised. We also saw several rays or skates in the area, some commingling with the sharks. These were, at most, 3.5-ft. across.

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Our last night we saw this sunset (oh, no Mr. Bill, not another sunset) and life is still good. Tomorrow, Sunday, we head south to Blck Point Settlement on Great Guana Cay, maybe 10~12 nm.

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Posted by sailziveli 18:11 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises fish beach boating bahamas Comments (0)

Big Majors Spot

Not Quite Staniel Cay

sunny 70 °F

Debbie, our friend on S/V Illusions, moored at Warderick Wells on Wednesday evening. We spoke with her briefly then but the weather was not very good and she headed straight back to her boat after checking in with the office. The next morning, more or less as we were getting ready to get underway, Debbie came by and we chatted for a while and compared some notes. We still plan to see her at Little Farmers Cay.

At 0900 we got underway, the wind and current not requiring any special maneuvering, a good thing for the captain. I had checked the weather and nothing seemed like an issue. By the time we cleared to the Exuma Bank, weather was an issue. If the wind was ever less than 20 knots, I didn't notice, and it was running 130 to 140 true; our general course was 135 to 150 degrees, messy and bumpy, made worse by the depth of the water, about 20-ft., which created very choppy water, not waves like in deeper water. In the big picture it was the perfect day not to do what we did; we should have stayed on the mooring ball. At least I didn't screw up like the captain of the Costa Concordia.

After almost two months we did actually sail the boat. We found a leg that had good water to the west so we were able to run close to the wind and then tack back to the way point. I thought that I had this right. In the event, I came up a half mile short on a leg of 4.5 miles, pretty poor. On the other hand it's been a long while since we truly sailed; an even longer time since we have sailed and tacked. Anyway, we will probably not get drafted for the America's Cup team. But it was really nice to sail.

I have been trying to get out of the point A to point B "are we there yet" mind set. Hard to do. So, the thought was to anchor near Sampson Cay, a small, tight, very well protected anchorage near a pretty nice marina with a good restaurant, and to go for a nice anniversary dinner. Didn't happen! When we headed to the anchorage we could see that there were several boats there already and that other boats had been forced to take less sheltered positions.

It was still blowing 20~25 knots, so the next idea was to go to the marina on Staniel Cay, only another 5 nm with plenty of light and time. But with the wind, and the current that I believed would hit us in that channel, it seemed a bad idea, never having been there before.

No profiles in courage here! We saw all the boats anchored in the lee of Big Majors Cay and headed there hoping that there is, in fact, safety in numbers. I nosed in with all the other sailboats and we anchored in about 10-ft. of water over sand. I did do my swim out to the anchor and it looked good. Of course, I do not actually know how a well set Danforth anchor should look, so I'll have to make that a conditional statement. Maybe after a few more dives I will have a functional clue.

It's a pretty crowded anchorage, at least 30 boats, giving just the right protection from the SE wind. Lots of sailboats but also several big motor yachts of the 60~100-ft. variety, the type that I thought never anchored and always went for the marina.

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This was the first time we have been around so many other boats at an anchorage. It's not crowded, just busy. At night it had its own tableau. Most sail boats showed just a single anchor light atop the mast; the large motor yachts, presumably with full time AC generators, were lit up like a city street with cabin lights, deck lights and, most, underwater lights that surround their boats in a luminous glow, which actually looks kind of neat. Most boats now have anchor lights that are LED for power saving. They also have a clean blue/white color that is quite distinct from incandescent bulbs. Their color and number look like an alternate Milky Way when this many are together in one place.

This morning we are headed to the marina on Staniel Cay for a couple of days, probably a trip of no more than 3nm.

Posted by sailziveli 09:20 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boats boating bahamas Comments (0)

Warderick Wells Cay

The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

semi-overcast 83 °F

We called the park on Saturday and asked to be put on the waiting list for a mooring ball; the park does not accept reservations. Carol called at 0915 on Sunday to see where we were on the list and they told us to "come on down." So, we did, leaving at about 0930 with a flotilla of other boats that, we guessed, were also going to the park. Actually, none of them were. Boats are like herding cats: if they go the same direction it's an accident and doesn't last very long. (We were subsequently told that getting a mooring ball this quickly never happens. Things are slow in the Bahamas now)

The trip was about 30 nm and took less than six hours but there were a lot of way points to get here. The front portion of the Explorer Chart books have a page with lots of pictures on how to read the water. I never gave this much concern and told Carol, the self professed color queen, to learn the techniques. It didn't take either of us very long to notice that when the sun went behind a cloud reading the water got harder and we really missed the color clarity.

The color issue could not have been more clear than Sunday, when we entered the park. The channel is very narrow but fairly deep; the channel was turquoise surrounded by almost white sand bars. We, actually me, had to turn the boat around to put the bow into the current to approach the mooring ball. Once again I thanked Joe V. for teaching me the trick for turning a sailboat around in very confined spaces. It has saved my bacon on several occasions including this one.

I would have loved to have made a video, shot from our bow, of entering the park; I cannot image prettier imagery. Unfortunately, I was busy driving the boat and Carol was on the bow engaged with reading the water. So, in lieu of that our offer is these panoramas courtesy of my new Nikon camera:

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Quite by accident, Ziveli is almost in the center of the second picture.

After checking in and, Carol electing to join the park, basically make a donation, we hiked across the island to Boo Boo Hill. The etymology of that name is: a ship wrecked on this island and all aboard perished with no bodies ever recovered for burial in sacred ground. Now those uninterred shades wander the island making the boo sound heard best on the hill. A good story! But when we looked at the windward side of the island it's easy to see how a ship could founder and wreck with no survivors. The rest of the story is more problematic.

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Life on the island is tough for plants. They all seem to have developed some similar traits: they can deal with salt in high concentrations; many have thick leaves to reduce moisture loss; they do not grow very tall because with the thin top soil tall things topple in high winds.

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Only the strong survive and, sometimes, not even them, or not for very long.

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I guess that I had always assumed that "tropical islands" would be lush and verdant, and many are. These islands are dry, arid, very few having any naturally occurring fresh water. I have read that in earlier days the islands were more wooded than today, those trees having been harvested for fuel. On the out islands we have seen only a few palms and an occasional rogue Australian pine standing taller than about 15-ft.

One different thing we have noticed here is the average age. Most cruising locales look like AARP conventions; here there have been many boats with younger folks, say 30's~40's, some with their kids. We're too old to feel guilty, but we never took Sean on any island hopping boat trips. We have met several "cruiser kids" and observed many more. What has struck us is that they are the nicest, most polite, most well mannered kids around. They also seem very well adjusted socially, able to interact with people of all ages, young to old. I have thought about this but do not yet have an idea about why this should be.

Here we are in a remote island paradise; we are on a boat not tethered to shore; we cannot make a phone call because BaTelCo has no cell towers within 20 miles. There's no water, fuel or food available. And yet -- there is pretty good internet service, not cheap but something is better than nothing. And, in addition to the ubiquitous book exchange they have about 200, or so, DVD's that they rent for not very much money. So, we rented a DVD for the evening just to try to stay awake past sunset. It probably won't work but it's worth a try. (Post Script: we did watch the video on the computer and played the sound through the FM radio. Big mistake! We used over 10 Ah which shocked me. The computer DVD drive must require a lot of power. No more DVD's unless we are on shore power.)

It's clear to me that some boat owner would have benefited from having my computerized maintenance checklist.

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This skeleton of a sperm whale that perished near by is on the beach close to the office. It was 52-ft. long before its untimely demise from having ingested some plastic. The skeleton, I think, does not do justice to the bulk and mass of the animal from which it came.

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And this is just about one of the coolest boat toys -- ever! If we had the room, which we do not, this would evoke a major case of boat envy. It is just a kayak with outriggers and a sail. The owner is on a large motor yacht, maybe 60-ft. The sad story is that he has probably done more real sailing in the past two days than we have in the past two months. Oh well, the park has a few kayaks that can be used for free; one of those will just have to do.

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We had dinner in the cockpit tonight, and like the several that preceded it, watched another unique and glorious sunset. I was struck that we live in a beautiful place, Spring Creek in Madison County, NC, and we are traveling in a beautiful set of islands. It may be easy to become inured to all of this and to accept the beauty as commonplace, normal, and not to respond with awe to the miraculous sights that our eyes behold. Carol's pretty good at this; I may need to work at it some more. This was our view on Tuesday morning when we had a few minutes of rain. It was worth at least a little bit of awe and wonder; unfortunately the camera did not capture the richness of color in the rainbow. To my comments in an earlier blog about the horizon, we have seen lots of rainbows but not so many where the whole 180 degree arc was visible.

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Ed Sherwood died a year ago this month, an event which jolted me at the time and must continue to engage me at some level since he has been much on my mind recently. It might just be the fact that this is January, the month of his passing; it might be that there is a boat moored 100 yards away that could be Da Vinci's twin; maybe it has to do with him wanting to come to the Bahamas but not having the time to overcome his hurdles and obstacles while Carol and I, facing our own set of hurdles and obstacles have, finally, made the trip. I do not suppose that it is important to know the why of these things and I hope that it is enough to cherish the memory of a man we both liked, enjoyed and miss and to count the blessings and good fortune that has been given to Carol and me in our lives and in each other. On January 27th, we think, we will have been 44 years married.

We took the dinghy down to Rendezvous Beach to check out the ruins of the Davis Plantation. There's not much in the way of information about the place, just a land grant to 1785. There's not much to see, just the ruins of a few stone huts, no Tara-like manses about. It's hard to imagine what they might have planned to harvest other than rocks, a crop that would have done very well.

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Another bird invaded the cockpit of our boat, probably finding crumbs from cereal that I spilled. I think that the specific breed is: yellow breasted cockpit scrounger. Or, maybe, it's a Bananaquit (Coereba Flaveola) but I'm just guessing at this. If nothing else this just goes to show that I need to clean the cockpit. This bird was persistent turning up again and again, seeming untroubled by our presence other than the fact that we interrupted his food search. Several times he flew into the cabin.

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Narrow Water Cay is the western boundary of the cove that holds the mooring field. It is not quite Pirates of the Caribbean but it does a pretty good imitation.

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On our last day here this huge catamaran, maybe four stories high came in and secured itself on a mooring ball. I thought that this would be way too much weight but when I checked with the office the lady said that they could accommodate boats up to 150-ft. long, something that I would not have guessed.

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Tomorrow, Thursday, we will head south toward Staniel Cay. If we go directly there it's only 20 nm.

Posted by sailziveli 13:33 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches birds boating bahamas tourist_sites Comments (0)

Boat Miscellany

sunny 82 °F

One thing that could not be more different between the mountains and the boat is horizon awareness. In the mountains the sky view is always truncated by a ridge or three. On the water almost every point of the compass is completely visible. Not better, just different. One day at anchor we watched these rain squalls move past us without leaving a drop on the boat.

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We were three nights at Highbourne Cay and watched a lot of boats come into and leave the anchorage. There were several things that struck us:

  • This was the first place that we have ever seen power boats at anchor, including some very big ones, maybe 80-ft.
  • There have been a lot of Beneteau sailboats. This is to be expected like a lot of Chevrolets in a Walmart parking lot. But, no Fords? There have been almost no Catalinas or Hunters. The last evening at Highbourne Cay there were at least five Beneteaus among the dozen sailboats there. The first night Highbourne there was another Oceanis 361 anchored closest to us.
  • The Bahamas may have been annexed as the southern province of Canada. It seems like at least 1/3 of the flags flying have the red maple leaf. It's probably hard to see but the flags are, L>R, Canada, France and the USA.

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I have been trying to get back in the habit of using fins and mask to check on the anchor after we shut down the boat. Most cruisers carry a 5-gal. bucket with a clear bottom on their dinghies and motor out to inspect their anchors. Since I have been using nature's largest bath tub for my daily ablutions the swim out is a good way to get used to the water. When I checked our re-anchor at Highbourne Cay I was not pleased with the set, thin sand over rock and the anchor position was marginal, but acceptable with not much wind expected. That convinced me that I have to check every time which, of course, I knew but did not want to do.

The trade winds have arrived a little earlier than usual bringing predictable and steady winds from the SE. Our general plan has been to move from Freeport to George Town, almost a perfect line to the SE. The point being we have not been able to sail without the motor going, and the sails giving an assist. The good news, I guess, is that we are in no danger of wearing out the sails. The return trip will be better, though, we hope. Our best sail ever was from Nassau to Marsh Harbour with SE winds and a NNE heading. We flew -- a great twenty hours.

The new engine has been steady and reliable and, with the new propeller, much faster. Even with that, the old engine had some nice points, at least by comparison: we were able to have oil pressure and engine temperature gauges, not possible with this engine without creating unacceptable problems. In lieu of the temperature gauge, we use an IR heat sensor, like firemen would use. The old engine also had a bottom drain for changing the oil, much better than we have now. Still, reliability and speed vs. convenience is no contest. The only issue I have noticed is an occasional drip of coolant, maybe a couple of teaspoons a week. Not an issue, and if it were, we have identified the leak and fixing it would not be hard.

We have used the new engine enough in enough different circumstances that it looks like we may have found the sweet spot: 2,500~2,700 RPM's gives us 5.5~5.8 knots at 0.65 gal. per hour or, perhaps, a little less. This far south, the days are almost, but not just yet, 11 hours plus another hour of twilight. So, a cruising range of at least 55 nm has so far been good enough. In the Exumas, from Nassau to George Town, our passages will be anywhere from 20 to 55 nm.

There is an issue on sailboats called prop walk, a tendency for the stern to want to pull in the direction that the propeller is turning. Rarely an issue going forward, it is almost always an issue in reverse. With the new, larger propeller our prop walk in reverse seems to have increased proportionally with the new diameter, maybe more. This will just take some time for familiarity to develop. Like with the engine: additional speed vs. handling convenience is no contest.

A bit of good news has been electrical usage. We have had some 12~14 knot winds so the wind generator has been pumping in the amp hours 24 hours a day and the solar panels have topped things off by mid afternoon. This will probably change as the weather warms and the wind attenuates but it has been nice so far.

The weather, so far, has been just about perfect. Mostly sunny, warm days and a few cool, but not cold nights. Carol, of course, is sweltering, the temperature occasionally getting into the low 80's. I have yet to put any winter clothes away since at night the temperature has dipped below 70, my threshold for freezing. Carol did, however, store the wool blanket. On average we have enjoyed the climate. After a day in the warm sun, a night breeze can seem very cool.

Now that we are anchoring a lot we have been using our radio headsets to communicate from the bow to cockpit. We had seen many cruisers using these but could never locate them on the internet despite a jillion searches with all sorts of combinations of key words. Someone finally told us where to locate them on a website called Cruising Solutions. The reason that we could not find them was that they were marketed as Marriage Savers, not radios. Truer words were never spoken, having done stuff without them and, now, with them. They are one reason that Carol may make it to our 44th anniversary in a few days.

I tried to listen to the two football games on Sunday on the SSB radio by tuning to the Armed Forces Network which, I assumed, would be carrying the games. I did get to hear some of the first game, Ravens v. Patriots, including the exciting, but disappointing ending. The reception went south on all of the AFN frequencies and I was unable to listen to any of the Giants v. 49er's game where I would have pulled for the Giants, cousin Les' team.

Posted by sailziveli 11:07 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach boating bahamas Comments (0)

SW Allens Cay

Jurassic Park in the Bahamas

sunny 80 °F

After a fairly typical morning on the boat, not much activity, we decided to take the dinghy to Allens Cay, about two miles north to see the iguanas. There is about a one mile reef/rocks between here and there with one good way through so we broke out the portable GPS with marine charts to make our way through the opening.

Not much of a problem, the GPS doing its thing well. However, having gone on the north side of the reef into a north wind the ride got bumpy. Again, not a problem. It also got wet ... Carol's description: the two of us fully clothed in a bath tub being drenched with a fire hose. Pretty close. Back at the boat I pumped out several inches of water.

The GPS was in a zip lock baggie and became pretty unreadable at that point and my glasses we so wet and salty the we just headed for a beach we could see. Turns out it was SW Allens not Allens, but who cares. We took the dinghy well up on the beach and put out the anchor. The boat is anchored near the tower to the left of the dinghy on the island in the background.

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Down the beach comes Iggy Iguana, no fear, no concerns, no problems, the local Jurassic version of Welcome Wagon. They are about 30-in. long and can move pretty quickly when they want to do so; they are vegetarians so not any real threat. They used to be ubiquitous throughout the islands; now they exist only on these few islands and are an endangered species. So, no more worrying about becoming a pair of Tony Lama cowboy boots for these guys.

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SW Allens is not very big, basically a large U shape. There are two defining items: a knoll, maybe 30-ft. above sea level and this single palm tree (lots of palmetto trees) which was just about on the beach where we landed.

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Walking in the water we noticed these conch shells, I figured empty. Not so. There were hundreds, none larger than about six inches. We did finally find a couple of conchs that were, maybe, legal size. I offered these up to Carol who, after personally devastating the conch population of the Northern Bahamas for her dining enjoyment, eschewed any more needless slaughter of the defenseless conch population. Oh, and she wants world peace too. On the plus side, I now know where to get my bait for fishing.

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Most of the island was eroded limestone with bits of sandy patches. The erosion pattern on the rocky part produced some very sharp areas; Carol slipped and punched a hole in the palm of her hand. I shredded and left about a quarter of the bottom of my not very good reef walkers there. We found this cairn and Carol added "our rock" to the pile.

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The ride back was much drier with the waves on the stern; we had dried out during the island visit. About halfway back, in an exposed, windy area, the engine quit. Oh s.... it's a long way to row. A simple fix ... I had pushed something against the fuel tank and disconnected the hose. Then the GPS stopped. A simple fix .... just reboot the thing and we made it back through the gap in the reef. Back on the boat, Carol tended her wound and we decided that it had been a good day but that we were through -- no more adventures.

Posted by sailziveli 14:10 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach boating bahamas iguanas Comments (0)

Highbourne Cay

semi-overcast 77 °F

On Tuesday, after much anxious thought, I decided that our weather options were not working. We are at the extreme fringe of the XMWeather satellite coverage: the wifi antenna needs a fairly tight radius to work; there is Chris Parker SSB reception and sometimes not. So off to BaTelCo go Carol and I to get some sort of cell antenna for the laptop that will allow internet access. No such deal. But they did have 4G phones with a data plan that can also produce a wifi hot spot. Carol has been wanting a smart phone and has a birthday in not so long, her 66th for all who count these things. She is now the proud (and clueless) owner of a really sporty Samsung smart phone that we will use through the Bahamas and then will become hers when we return to the states. The only problem was: slower than slow download speeds when we had be promised 8Mgbs --- we were more than 100 times slower than that. So, rather than leave on Wednesday, as planned, there was another trip to BaTelCo to get an explanation. An arcane setting, one that I could not have known about but that the salesperson should; it's always so comfortable to be able to blame others for our own failings. An easy fix and things work fine. This also gave us a chance to refill an LP canister, not critical but nice to have done. A left handed benefit of this: much lower power consumption with the phone and iPad than with the laptop which won't get nearly as much usage.

In a way of thinking, the trip actually starts now. To date, on this trip, we have always had tethers to the shore: lines to secure us at marinas; electrical cords to power us at the dock. Now, we will start to sweat those not being at hand. Will the anchor drag? Almost certainly, at some point, yes! Will power consumption be an issue? A given with our refrigerator. Will I go nuts worrying about these? You betcha'.

As I was configuring things for the second anchor on the bow, I made a note to reread the section on anchoring in The Annapolis Book of Seamanship, a practical reference we keep on board. There were, as expected, well illustrated and described maneuvers for setting two anchors; not a thing on how to recover two anchors. Maybe that's supposed to be common sense but it doesn't seem very common to me.

This got me to remembering our first and only time we tried to set two anchors, that being during our first trip south. It was in Awenda Creek, in SC, an experience I have not yet forgotten and was recounted in some blog entry during Nov/Dec 2008. Since that event we have covered several thousand miles and have accumulated three more (checkered) years of experience. It's hard to connect the dots between then and now. We have learned so much and have so much more confidence, if not in ourselves, then, at least, in our decision making. The simplest lesson seems to be this: Do not knowingly put ourselves in a situation we are not sure we can handle. Those situations will happen often enough without any extra help. But, the simple fact is that however much more we may now know, it's not enough and will never be. We started boating too old and too late in life to be able to develop the breadth and depth of knowledge that we would like to have.

So, when Thursday morning came we were way past ready to leave Nassau. Not, maybe, so ready to see if the nav plan to skip the Yellow Bank and to skirt the White Bank would work. Coral heads v. white sand seemed like an easy choice since the water depths were about the same, minus the height of the coral heads, of course, but it added several miles to the passage. But, Bruce & Dawn had done something similar so we weren't the first to jump off that edge.

We left the marina at 0715. There is an inconvenient shoal that guards marina row and we wanted the maximum water during the falling tide. No problems there, plenty of water if you mind your location. As we were leaving we finally got to see Fort Montagu, apparently undergoing some restoration or renovation. It's tiny, maybe bigger than our garage but probably not as big as our house. It's hard to appreciate the fort as an impregnable redoubt holding pirates and the Spanish at bay for a century or two.

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The non-Explorer Chart nav plan worked out great; we never had less than 13 feet of water and saw no coral heads which, of course, doesn't mean that they were not there. About an hour before we hit the anchorage a modest front blew through -- a band of clouds, one minute of not very much rain, an a wind shift from 270 to 010. We were anchored by 1430, putting out more than 100-ft. of chain, and we were only the fourth boat in the anchorage which seemed fine to us. At about 1630 the action got a little more intense, with about 10 more boats pulling in and doing so in a way that seemed a lot like amateur hour bumper cars... anchoring too close, anchoring in a way that could foul another boats anchor line. I thought about getting on the VHF to say something and finally decided that this is life in the Bahamas: mostly adults and a few figurative teenagers. In every anchorage there has to be a last boat in.

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That evening came some ugly news. The promised high speed internet does NOT work in the out islands; this was a question that I specifically asked. It does work at speed maybe 10% better than dial-up, so a problem but not a deal breaker. I downloaded Android apps for the WSJ and the Economist. The WSJ is a big change; two years ago I was reading, maybe, six square feet of news print, now eight square inches of OLED screen.

On Friday we went to SW Allens Cay, a separate blog entry.

On Saturday we went ashore on Highbourne Cay. It's a smallish island, maybe two miles long. The marina facility and its store are about as nice as any we have seen. We replaced my shredded reef walkers; who would thought to have found those here. We went down to the beach, less idyllic and much angrier with some weather coming through.

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We were concerned about the weather so we headed back to the boat, stopping only to appreciate that the Bahamas are a mindset as well as a place.

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After lunch we decided to reanchor the boat. The wind had shifted almost 180 and that could be bad for anchor holding. After we did this, several other boats made similar adjustments.

In the next day or two we hope to be able to move down to Warderick Wells Cay and get a mooring ball there for a few days. This cay is the center piece of the Exuma Park, more or less the Bahamas equivalent of Yellowstone.

Posted by sailziveli 14:08 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beach boating bahamas tourist_sites Comments (0)

Still in Nassau

and that is not a problem

semi-overcast 72 °F

Having looked at the weather forecasts, several days of 20~25 knot winds we elected to stay here. Well, we're still waiting for the high winds; today we cannot even ruffle the flag. But the weather forecast will be right eventually, maybe even in my lifetime. The newest crisis de jour: no diesel fuel. We tried to refuel in Great Harbour; they were dry. Chubb probably had some but Nassau seemed like a sure thing. Well, not so sure as it turns out; both adjacent fuel docks are dry. Our needs are small, only 20 gallons, but we're not leaving until we have that fuel on board.

So, Carol elected herself as tour guide and we have been doing some touristy things, the first of which seemed to require that we walk to the other end of the island; well, at least the other end of the harbour, which happens to be where the cruise ships are. There were five ships moored that day and there was a lot of foot traffic in the area. The instructive lesson for the day was: don't hike cross country for miles and miles in flip flops; it's hard on the feet.

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We accomplished the most important task of the day: selecting my souvenir t-shirt for Nassau. Carol's goal was to locate and purchase a beach umbrella, although I don't know why she thought we find such an arcane item let alone carry it on the boat. In lieu of that she purchased yet another hat, to go with her growing collection, this one with the virtue of a diameter almost as large as that of a beach umbrella. She must have a secret hiding place for this cache since I rarely see them except on her red head.

Both in Freeport and here there have been "straw markets," an aggregation of small booths where vendors, almost exclusively women, sell various shirts, hats and other tourist type tschotskes. We didn't give the "straw market" name much thought until we visited the Historical Society. In there was a display showing the various weaving patterns that local folks used to make straw goods, e.g. hats, baskets, etc. Today there did not seems to be much, if any, in the way of locally produced straw goods, but it is easy to imagine the evolution of the concept going back a century or two.

The Historical Society was, overall, a disappointment for a place, and a British place at that, that has such a long and remarkable history. It looked more like a thrift store than a museum. But, there were a few gems. We learned that before cruise ships that the harbour was different: the west end was closed, or impassable, due to coral heads, and the main entrance was at the east end, guarded by a fort, of course. This lighthouse was added sometime at the west end when that area was cleared.

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The Nassau economy, like most other places, appears to have suffered in the past couple of years. At the east end of the harbour, where the private boat marinas are, and also there are the two bridges to Paradise Island, things seem generally OK. The far west end where the passengers from the cruise ships shop also seems mostly OK. In between, not so much ... lots of empty store fronts and buildings. Carol thought that many of the women at the straw market seemed "desperate" so maybe things are not so good below the surface.

The Bahamas have been independent of Britain since 1964 but the residual imprint of almost 400 years of British presence is still visible. This statue is of Victoria, Regent and Imperatrix. Despite that history with the British Empire, you have to like a country that ignored that past and devised a Great Seal, on all paper currency, which has a flamingo and a fish. No lions rampant, eagles, one or two headed, griffins or such, no bellicosity explicit or implied. You can almost imagine that someone had a sense of humor. The fish is easy and obvious; the flamingos are on Great Inagua island. They have been producing/drying salt on the island for a long time and in the salt flats there exists a particular type of brine shrimp that West Indian flamingos like to eat. There is a national sanctuary on the island for those birds, and others, and we would love to go there. But the island is the southernmost in the chain and is off the eastern tip of Cuba, requiring several days of cruising for our boat to get there. So, it's probably not gonna' happen.

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Today was Paradise Island day and knowing about the traffic we decided to go early in the afternoon. We went to the Atlantis Hotel & Casino intending to visit the water park. The arrival at the hotel is pretty cool.

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The water park thing did not work out ... only for paying guests which we were not. Carol, even in her full throated Nordic Princess mode could not talk her way in, a rarity. So we went down to the village arcade which last trip had we had so enjoyed. Today, it seemed like just another bunch of stores. So, over to the Bahama Craft Center, just across the street. This was better, there being some actual hand made basketry, purses and hats and ladies that could talk about the materials, techniques and patterns. There was also some hand carving like we had seen some men doing down at the straw market. Sadly for those ladies, the casino seemed a bigger draw than their hand made efforts.

On the map was a note for "the Cloister," we having no idea what that was about. Off we hiked, me, this time, in more sensible shoes and socks. What a great surprise it was, the remains of a 14th century French Monastery that was imported, stone by stone, to the United States by the newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst in the 1920s; 40 years later the Cloisters were bought by Huntington Hartford and installed at the top of a hill on Paradise Island overlooking Nassau Harbour.

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Across the street was a long mall with flowers, statuary and pools. The whole thing was rather stunning when looked at from afar. It was such an unexpected oasis in such a sea of commercial activity and real estate development.

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The diesel crisis got resolved. The two fuel docks at adjacent marinas were out. This marina does not have a fuel dock, but it does have diesel fuel, no gasoline, for boats that are moored there. So, we are ready to go when we get ready to go.

The marina had been mostly empty but on Thursday and Friday with the inclement weather on offer, it really filled up, almost all sailboats except for a 100-ft. motor vessel. It seemed a bit like small world week. First, the couple on our starboard side kept their boat in New Bern. Then, while I was walking down the street a man stopped me and commented on my Whittaker Point t-shirt, since he had been keeping his boat there. Turns out we had met in Oriental four years ago and we had left that marina probably a day or two before he arrived. We spent some time together doing beer & football over weekend. On Saturday, after the game I met another couple from New Bern who are aboard a 30-ft. Nonsuch. Knowing only one other person who has such a boat I asked if they knew him. They allowed that they had never met Joe but had corresponded with him on a boat owners bulletin board.

Monday was pretty lazy also. The one task I accomplished was to rig a second anchor. It's really a goofy system, but it will mostly work. I figure that the crisis for which we are prepared is not so likely to happen. It seems improbable that in several months of anchoring that we will never need a second anchor out. It's good to be prepared.

We had planned to leave tomorrow, Tuesday, but on the advice of several experienced sailors have moved that back to Wednesday. Between New Providence Island (Nassau) and Highbourne Cay, our next stop, there is a bank with lots of coral heads, some with not so much water on top. It's better to make this passage with very sunny, clear skies so that the coral is easily visible against the bottom.

Posted by sailziveli 17:32 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beaches beach boating bahamas tourist_sites Comments (0)

On to Nassau

sunny 75 °F

We got up at the usual time, about 0600, and got the boat ready to get underway. It was pretty close to high tide, so leaving early seemed like a good idea. During this I got to thinking about our planned anchorage for the evening. It struck me that the fine sand we had seen on the beach would also be the same sand in which we would be anchoring. Our experience in Biscayne Bay, Florida, which also has a very fine sand bottom, was that the Danforth anchor was the only one that had good holding. So, off goes the Manson Supreme and on goes the Fortress, something we have done often and easily. When we were in Nassau two years ago we visited some marine supply stores and the only anchors they sold were Danforth anchors. Maybe there's a reason.

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We went very slowly trying to find the channel using the depth meter, no markers, and turned the corner to head for the cut. Imagine our surprise when we could not find the #@!*^% thing, once again. Carol said that she was sure that the channel was in a particular direction, so we went that way until the depth hit 5.5-ft. and then backed up like crazy to get out of the shallow water. There was a fairly large ship moored to our port and it was starting to get underway. We reckoned that that captain could find the channel, so we followed him out. Without that "seeing eye dog" we probably would not have found it this time either. It's so well concealed that Capt. Jack Sparrow could hide the Black Pearl from the English fleet without worry.

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There was a little wind on Sunday, and we motor sailed most of the way, making great time 6~7 knots, covering about 50 nm. It's remarkable how much route planning changes when the basic daily increment is 50 nm, rather than 40 nm. Carol mentioned that when we cleared the North West Channel on the last trip we were making less than 3 knots prior to the engine failing in the channel to Chubb Cay. Today, 6.5~7.0 knots and no problems except for one little thing. About four hours into the trip we saw what looked like steam or, possibly, smoke in the companion way, above the engine compartment. Major panic attack! I opened the engine hatch expecting to see the worst and saw ....... nada, bupkus, nothing. No smoke, no fluids boiling off, the temperatures were good, everything was dry, no odors from fried electrical insulation, no alarms going off, no similar haze of any kind in the engine compartment. We have no clue what it could have been, but we both know what we saw. I'm thinking POLTERGEIST!

We thought that we might stay at the mooring field at Fraziers Hog Cay despite the facility being closed for renovations. Carol was talking to someone and was told that another sailboat had done that just that and that the mooring ball cable had parted and the boat got into serious trouble. The next plan was to anchor west of Chubb Cay with the newly installed Fortress anchor. As we approached the anchoring area we saw that there were no boats anchored, maybe just a coincidence although the wind was probably a little more brisk than would be comfortable there. There was also a boat that looked like a dredge moored in the area. So we bailed and headed for the marina, always a safe choice but, here, an expensive one.

Having left the marina we awarded ourselves the Anchoring Weenie Award. The barges & dredges were gone; there were two sailboats anchored where we would have; there were several more anchored at Texaco point; and, even more near Whale Cay. I guess that we are forever scarred by our first anchoring experience at Okracoke, which went bad and almost ended very badly. I figure that we will spend a lot of time on the hook; we're just not in a hurry to do so if there is a better alternative.

On day 26 of the trip, having left Brunswick on 12/14/11, we got to Nassau, it being 625 days since we last entered this port. This time was better! The last time we limped to the port, got towed to the harbor and towed again to the marina. This entry was under our own power ... what a concept! Things are pretty much the same at the Nassau Harbour Club Marina. Peter still runs the place; Dudley is still the dock master. The main difference: the pool has been repaired, a prospect against which Carol would have bet big money .... and lost. We are in exactly the same slip as 625 days before.

We went to dinner tonight at a Chinese restaurant which we had frequented before and to which Carol wanted to go again. Food must be important to her; she remembered the combinations she wanted and the menu page on which they were printed. We left for the restaurant at 5:30PM and the traffic along East Bay Street, which goes in front of the marina, was just like the Dan Ryan Expressway, and it was backed up to the other side of the bridge from Paradise Island. When we left after dinner an hour later ... no change, including the bridge. I do not know how there could be so many cars on that island but we were told that it will be like that until 9:00PM.

The good news was that when we arrived at the marina the package from Boat Owners Warehouse was here with the spare toilet part. The bad news was that I asked Carol to order two and they only sent one. Not a major problem because 1>0. The fee at this marina includes fresh water; it's not separate and metered as in many marinas in the Bahamas. That's good because this boat needs to be cleaned. After the last two passages we have an alternate plan for trip financing: scrape the salt off the boat, put it in 5-lb. bags and sell it. I guess that we have at least 10 bags we could fill.

We've just been doing chores, getting ready to head south. Two of the last untested items were the dinghy and motor, the motor not being much of a concern since we had it serviced at a Mercury dealer in Brunswick that was nice enough to hold it for us until we left in December. Still, if there were a problem, Nassau would be a good place to get it fixed. We have had the dinghy during two previous trips and the motor for the trip last year. The only place the two have been used together was in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL, which has all sort of speed restrictions. The motor, improbably, fired up on the very first pull and off I went. With just me in the boat, it went fast enough to be scary when there was a wake in the water or any sort of wave; it felt like it wanted to get airborne. I'm sure that with Carol as additional ballast getting airborne will not be a problem.

Having dispensed with that the other item was the SSB and getting the weather, in this case, Chris Parker. So one morning, when I was semi-coherent, I powered it up at 0630 and waited. In the islands 0630 is not an promise of precision, military or otherwise; waiting 5 or 10 minutes is part of the deal. We never heard Chris Parker, but we did hear lots of cross talk so we know that the unit works. In most populated islands these is a VHF net that rebroadcasts the weather so, not too much about which to be concerned.

When in Great Harbour Cay a gentleman told us about FFFFF, The First Friday in February Farmers Festival, in this case Farmers referring to Little Farmers Cay, the last stop for most boats before heading into the open water, south to Georgetown. A friend of ours, Debbie, plans to be there so we would like to meet her there and enjoy the fun.

That's a ways away, so our plan is to sit out some very windy weather here in Nassau where we are secure and the costs are much less than those in the smaller islands. Depending on how the weather settles out, we may not leave until next Tuesday, fine with Carol because they have conch here in Nassau too.

Our night view of Nassau Harbour.

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Posted by sailziveli 09:53 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boats Comments (0)

A Little Bit More of Great Harbour Cay

sunny 68 °F

A lot of restaurants on the island have gone under, no longer open for business. Carol and I had dinner here, the Rock Hill Restaurant. It looks better in the picture than it does on the ground; the food was mediocre and too expensive. The setting was great, almost like a Graham Greene novel.

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Our last evening on the island we saw the moon rising in the east and reflected on the water while the sun was setting over the hill in the west.

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Posted by sailziveli 19:40 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boating bahamas Comments (0)

Great Harbour Cay

sunny 75 °F

Wednesday was not a great day for either of us. Carol, the CFO for the trip, tried to use her Wells Fargo card and discovered that her card did not work; mine did. All the others did and this is not a problem, only an inconvenience. Regardless, Carol got uptight. For me, it was the calculation of time, rate and distance; would we be able to get to the harbor with enough light to navigate a tricky channel. Plus there was the Berry Island Curse, our version of the Bermuda Triangle. In our two trips to the Berry Islands we have hosed the motor, fried the electrical system and tried to sink the boat with leaking transducers. We're not superstitious, but there is a definite trend line here. The old habits die hard and intensity is a useful trait at the proper times. If it's difficult to get an old dog to learn new tricks, it's impossible to get an old dog to unlearn old tricks.

Ken, a dock neighbor went fishing today and gave us some wahoo fillets which Carol decided to keep for another night. When the going gets tough, the tough go out to dinner, at least on this boat. We had a nice early bird special, basically a kid's meal with a glass of wine. It was tasty and just the right amount. After dinner we walked over to the water which I wanted to see since we were leaving the next day. Despite the weather reports indicating fairly heavy seas, the water was almost glassy -- no surf on the beach. We could only hope that it will also be that way for the trip.

Our verdict on Freeport/Lucaya? Two thumbs down, an interesting place to have visited once; not sufficiently compelling to visit twice unless the port is part of a transit plan.

It was cool on Thursday morning, 47F, when the alarm went off at 0430. Carol dug out the warm clothing, for me a fleece vest. When I looked at the vest in the light it was covered with Wile E's red and buff dog hair. It was good to remember the old pooch; he would rather be on the mountain in Spring Creek, but he's a dog and he does not get a vote. His picture, just because I like my pooch.

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I was not going to check the engine oil level, having done so when we changed it on Monday. But Carol was being helpful, hint, hint, to help me remember to do this, So, I figured, why not! It might help me establish the pattern. Imagine my surprise when the oil was well over filled; I knew that I planned to run the engine hard and too much oil would have been a seriously bad idea. So, out comes the pump to draw off the oil level at least to the maximum level. This helped pass the time while we waited.

We had hoped to get underway soon after 0500 but we were defeated by the dew point; all of the strata-glass windows were covered with moisture, inside and out, and as fast as we wiped them off, the dew reappeared. Functionally blind is not a great way to transit a difficult channel. At 0600 we said screw it and left the dock; about 10 minutes later we were in the channel, it being silhouetted against the very faint first light of dawn, and we made our way to the open water. We had thought that we would be the first boat out that morning but were, in fact, the second, a catamaran having left, maybe, 15 minutes earlier. There was another sloop about 5 minutes behind us.

The numbers were tough, at least in old think: cover 57.2 nm in nine hours hitting the Bullocks Harbour waypoint by 1600. That meant going slightly over six knots. In the event, we hit the waypoint at 1530, despite having given away some time to take in the sails. It was a good thing to have picked up some time, because I do not think that we could have successfully entered this harbor in fading daylight. This island is quite different from any others that we have seen. It has the aspect of being an atoll, a hollow center surrounded by a ring of land. In this case, the channel through the ring of land was not visible from a distance. We might not have found it except that a couple of power boats sped by us and went through the channel. The trick is/was head straight for a cliff, maybe 20~25-ft. high and, just before you crash into it, make a turn to the left of more that 90 degrees, dodging shoals and shallow water, entering a man made channel cut through the rock cliffs. It was harder than it sounds. But it proved, once again, that the Explorer charts are to be trusted. The way point the for channel entrance was spot on.

The passage itself was very pleasant. Warm and sunny with cotton-ball, fair weather cumulus clouds. The forecast was for seas in the area of 6-ft. The fact was seas more like 6-in., flat but not glassy. There was a trailing wind that provided a little more speed on the trip. A very nice boat day.

This was our first day trip, a hard day being better than a hard day and a hard night. Making this transit would have been impossible with the old engine, maintaining more than six knots being a hallucinogenic dream. We even passed and stayed ahead of the catamaran that left before we did, the only other times this happened was when the catamarans were anchored.

At day's end, after a cold drink and a hot meal, Carol was snoozing on the settee by 7:30 PM and I was nodding at the nav station. What a pitiful pair we are.

On the way in we passed Great Stirrup Cay, along with Little Stirrup Cay. The larger island is owned or leased by cruise ship companies. The large vessels anchor on the north side of the island ferry their passengers to the island for, we assume, for and drink, swimming and snorkeling and other fun bits. When we passed their were two ships anchored which must have meant an awful lot of people on the island. There is an anchorage between the two islands and cruising lore has it that, if handled politely, the folks don't mind an extra guest or two.

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We have not seen too many of these islands but this one is different from any others on which we have been: high ground. The harbour here is surrounded by a hillside that probably goes 30~50 above sea level. We were told that this is the best hurricane hole in the Bahamas, quite believable. The scale is that the condos are 3.5 stories tall with the roof making them about 4.0 stories.

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There are about 40 of these condos built around the cove. Last night there may have been 5 that had lights on. I found one offered for sale at $385,000 for 1,900 sq. ft. Needless to say Carol and I are not making any deposits or down payments.

We had a walk about on Friday, deciding to visit the town of Bullocks Harbour. Going to town a nice young mas gave us a ride most of the way. The town is small but, with our other visits there seems to be a pattern. It's not quite like the Eloi and the Morlocks but: the black population seems to live in the old, established town in a relatively dense format, probably having a century or so of continuous residence; the towns seem to be built around what is or was the harbor. The white population seems to occupy all the land that is not part of the town. It's not good or bad, but it seems to be consistent.

The other noticeable thing was that there was a lot of incomplete construction. Sometimes it was just a foundation; other times walls were up; and on a few, the roofs were in place. At some point the music died and has not played since. There is no hint that these will ever be finished. On the whole, Bullocks Harbour seemed much more prosperous than Bimini. We were told that many of the residents work for the cruise lines on Great Stirrup Cay which would put good money into the community. Carol at the causeway between the two islands, although causeway is a rather grandiose word for some landfill, culvert and two lanes of black top.

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On Saturday the walk about was to the beach, which Carol had already scouted out in the morning. It is magnificent. On the local brochure they call it a sugar beach, a pretty fair description. It is almost white; it is almost as fine as confectioners sugar. As for the water, there are not enough words to describe the shadings as the depth changes, as the bottom changes and as the sun changes. The camera is wholly inadequate.

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Carol, of course, always finds the shade.

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On the way back we notices swarms of these butterflies on these succulent plants. There were some very small flowers which must have been the attraction. My best guess is that these are Fiery Skippers, or not.

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We will leave tomorrow and wend our way to Nassau, a trip that will take a night and two easy days of about 35 nm or so. We had planned to stay at the Berry Island Club mooring field as we have done before. It seems that they are closed for renovations so we will probably anchor off Chubb Cay for the night before heading to Nassau.

Posted by sailziveli 15:04 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beaches beach boating bahamas Comments (0)

Freeport, the Bahamas, #2

overcast 59 °F

With all of the stuff going on, we had been so busy enjoying the trip that we neglected to reflect on the fact that we actually made it to the Bahamas without mishap, almost getting run over by large ships not withstanding. And, we did it several months earlier than on our other trips. Of course, we have not yet gone to the Berry Islands where our other two trips foundered with (old) engine problems. So, our next stop will be the acid test.

On New Years eve I had my first illegal smoke. Not the ganja of the islands but a real Cuban cigar, illegal in the states but we are not in the states, after all. It was really good, although I could not taste much difference from Dominican cigars which are, presumably, pretty much the same. It was a Romeo y Julieta, from Havana, desde 1875. While I was enjoying this treat Carol opted for an island drink, a Bahama Mama, which seemed appropriate to her, she being in the Bahamas and also being a mother. About two sips did it for her -- she did not finish it. It might have tasted better if there had been the obligatory little paper umbrella. No such luck. Probably a good thing too since we both had already had a gin and tonic on the boat and I could not have carried her back to the boat were she to have finished it; she being too big, me being too puny.

At 9PM the party started. There were probably several hundred people on the mall, which is all of 50-ft. from the end of the pier at which we are moored.

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There was a five person musical group, two of whom were female singers. I was a little surprised perfectly fitting the profile of an old, clueless white guy. With the pervasiveness of American popular culture I would have guessed that Rap music would have a high profile here. Absolutely not the case. Reggae and Rastafarian rule. There is not a single t-shirt shop that does not have a Bob Marley offering. The music on offer was very eclectic, but done well. We stayed for a while and then retired to the boat. Sleep was problematic since the fireworks started at midnight, en punto. They only lasted 10 minutes but it was a very loud and very bright 10 minutes. Then the boats started with their horns. By 12:30AM the party was over.

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We had a quiet Sunday, no work, and on Monday started working, but not as planned. We went from being people on a boat to boat owners with responsibilities. The toilet stopped working early on, 0600 ..... big problem! Five hours later, smelling about the same as the project on which I was working, and after a complete rebuild, the toilet was re-installed and functioning. What a mess it was. The marine toilet is a complicated piece of engineering, entailing about 10 times as many parts as the porcelain pots at home. I would not work on the dock for fear of losing small parts through the spaces in the planks; so, we did it all in the cockpit. It was a good time to be at a marina and to have a hose handy. I discovered a toilet part that probably will not last very long. Hooray for the satellite phone and Boat Owners Warehouse in Ft. Lauderdale. They will have a couple of those parts waiting for us when we get to Nassau.

We thought these flowers were hibiscus; they are not but are pretty just the same.

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About half of the boats in the marina headed for home on 01/01 and 01/02. The boat next to us, a charter I think, intended to do the same but was forced to return to port after developing engine trouble. The captain says that he will have to wait for a rebuild kit of some kind to arrive from Italy. Makes our issues seem kind of small.

On Monday night a front blew through and we are living with the attendant weather; 35 knot winds, 14-ft. seas and very cool temperatures, middle 50's or less. The heater definitely came back on for this. It was so windy there were even white caps in the protected area where we are moored. The winds should die down on Wednesday and the seas, maybe on Thursday but surely on Friday. The temperature is not too bad, but the wind really makes them bite. It was strange to see the shopping area and bars bereft of people.

We had to go to downtown today to get the computer fixed after I screwed it up. We assumed that there would be a old, central downtown located in some proximity to the port with buildings dating to HRH someone or another. Well, there is not. This is almost like Tokyo, smaller, of course, by several orders of magnitude: an amorphous place with no particular geographical focus. We never even considered renting a car. We would have a survival interval measured in nanoseconds from driving on the other side of the road. The thing that we forget .... crossing the street. We always look the wrong way and then, maybe, remember. Fortunately, the speed limits are very low and, seemingly, obeyed.

Freeport/Lucaya seems to be fairly expensive. Part of that may be due to pricing for tourists, of which there are many. When my computer was being restored I looked at their prices for laptops; I would estimate that a similar product at Best Buy would have been at least $300 less than here. I have wondered many times if there prices for out landers and prices for local folks. Probably not. We had taken taxis a couple of times to the tune of $15~$20 each way. Then a nice man offered us a ride and while doing so told us that the buses are $1. We now like the bus, a great value.

Things are kind of gray and ugly here .... not a peak tourist day. We'll be busy today doing chores necessary prior to getting underway tomorrow, we hope. The trip to Great Harbour Cay is about 60 nm, or so, pretty much of a stretch for us to complete in one day. We have about 10.5 hours of daylight and another hour of good dawn/dusk twilight. It's doable but we will have to leave very early, probably before first light and try to exit a narrow, rock lined channel to the open water. The good news is that we'll have a following wind and should be able to motor sail. More good news: we called the marina this morning ... no one there but a boater picked up and we talked. He said that the last 4 nm to the harbor are over sand and that you can anchor anywhere. Good to know, if he's right. The seas will be higher than we want, but, still, not bad: in the 4~5-ft. range settling down later in the day.

Posted by sailziveli 08:55 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boating bahamas Comments (1)

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