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Entries about landscapes

Shroud Cay

sunny

We were both up early Friday morning, Carol to shower and me to look at the weather on the computer. I have three weather icons on the desktop: Hot Springs was 69o, Brunswick was 72o and Nassau was 66o, the coolest of the three. I would never have bet that this would happen in February.

There was frontal weather coming through some time on Saturday afternoon or evening. Our choices were to leave on Friday or to stay in the marina at least until Tuesday morning. We wanted to return to Normans Cay but the anchorage there is an F rated one, not suitable for heavier winds. Shroud Cay, on the other hand, has mooring balls rated for more than 100 tons, enough for our eight tons, or so, regardless of any front passing through. An easy choice: Get Out of Dodge!

We left without a problem at 0730. As soon as we cleared the dock into the channel, Carol was not amused; there were whitecaps in the harbour. And that's the way it was the whole trip. More wind than we expected, more waves than we expected and both, always, it seemed, dead on the bow. Carol was tough, though, and did not heave chunks, at least that I saw. She really likes calm water. Today was rough, at one point the waves, forecast at 2~3 were 4~5. In the ocean the period between waves will be about 5-sec. to 10-sec. and the boat floats over them. These were 2-sec. to 3-sec. and the boat just battered its way through, belly flopping along the way. It was like driving for eight hours over speed bumps, or being on any Chicago expressway after the final winter thaw. My forecast of seven to eight hours was off by two hours, we rarely got above 5.5 knots despite running the engine hard.

At 1030 leaving Nassau seemed to have a bad idea. By 1430 things were much better. The wind had backed off a few knots; we had shortened the fetch from 25 miles to less than 10 and decreasing. The trip was way less ugly. Carol, a chronic boat worrier, was concerned that there would be no available mooring balls. In fact, they may have been only one-third full and we generally had our pick of spots, settling in at the north end of the field.

The score for the day was: the VHF radio worked well. Jason's engine alignment was upgraded from good enough to pretty good or very good. The gas, probably OK; at this point we cannot be sure what smell is real or imagined.

Got up Saturday morning and the electrical consumption was off the charts, almost literally, over 50 amp hours used during the night. There was no breeze at all during the night and the wind generator did not make a single turn; still hasn't. This got me to thinking that we timed the purchase poorly. We bought it in very early January, 2009, after Obama had been elected but not yet inaugurated. Had we waited a few more months we could probably have gotten some of the several billions in stimulus money for clean & green energy that was wasted on companies such as Solyndra. At least our little project works and actually does reduce diesel pollution (CO2 emissions) when the wind blows, something most stimulus recipients cannot claim.

Tried to listen to Chris Parker again this morning, having tried the day before in Nassau, both times without success. In Nassau we thought that it might be interference; interference cannot be a issue out here. The problem seems to be with the USB (upper side band) range; everything is very faint while the other bands are loud and clear. This could be a problem for us.

Carol wanted to get into the island so we got the dinghy ready to go and headed out, north, around some rocks and reefs. There are several tidal estuaries that go into the island and are accessible during higher tides. We caught the timing just right, maybe an hour before high tide. The longest of these may be a half mile, but in a sinuous course. This island is not for Robinson Crusoe or Tom Hanks; not too much chance of surviving on this island's bounty. It's more a colony than an island entity, areas conjoined at low tides and separate at higher water. All these are stitched together by the mangrove swamp that occupies the center of the island. There are some very nice beaches on the interior of some of these estuaries, unexpected to me. Unfortunately, these pictures do not begin to convey the sense of the area.

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The inner area is quite beautiful but in a very austere way although there were some unexpected and great beaches along these estuaries. The water ways were fairly shallow, maybe 2-ft. to 4-ft. deep on average; we only ran aground once. The water was like glass, so clear that it was difficult to get a reading on depth. We saw fish, coral clumps, conchs, and some birds. Mangrove swamps/roots are where the base of the food chain spawns so, I thought that we might have seen more marine life. Regardless, this island is as it was centuries ago, if not millennia ago, save for the ubiquitous park signs.

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I wanted to get out of the dinghy in a few places and explore. Carol was having none of it. She wanted to be chauffeured about. I think that maybe she spent too much time talking to Sunny and bought into the concept of high maintenance women, something that she has always claimed that she is not.

The new fuel hose proved out, never disconnecting as the old one did. And, I finally figured out how to get the dinghy onto a plane with us both in it: Carol and I both have to get pretty far forward. We covered a lot of territory today in a few hours, something that we could not have done with the old 4-HP engine.

We drove the dinghy over to Little Pidgeon Cay. It's not so much how the other half lives as where they live. The island is fairly small, probably 5 acres or less, but there is a private house on it, accessible only by boat. The house is modest; the island is great. The mountains are better but an occasional month here would be very nice.

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I caught my first fish on Saturday. I had found a good sized helmet shell and set it on the swim platform and spent a while just swimming around. When I returned and picked up the shell I heard a noise inside; looked and saw a fish in the water in the shell. I let it out and it swam away, all 4-inches of it.

We arrived Friday evening, and soon thereafter the wind stopped -- not a breath to be felt. The wind generator went on holiday and for about the next 30 hours, or so, the air was still and the water was glassy. Carol was too hot during the day and decamped to the cabin; the amp hours flowed from the batteries to the point of being concerning. Then early Sunday morning the winds came and came hard, about 20 knots and the wind generator started cranking. Of course, the clouds from the front arrived by mid morning making for a not so nice day. We thought it too rough for a dinghy ride so we just hung out and read, putting a major dent in the on board library. Our concerns about being secure when the front arrived were over wrought. it just wasn't that big a deal. Of course, when you shrug that sort of thing off is when you get flattened.

On Sunday evening we saw this plane land. Who says that you can never find a taxi when you need one. Two passengers left the plane into a dinghy and went a mile or two out to a very large ship at anchor. It was so windy when the plane took landed and took off that it seemed to need less than 100-yds. to manage the landing and lift off.

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Posted by sailziveli 13:40 Archived in Bahamas Tagged landscapes boats boating bahamas Comments (0)

Allens Cay

sunny 82 °F

Having spent the morning doing boat stuff, we decided to move the boat about two miles north to Allens Cay, a place we had admired on our ill advised dinghy ride to SW Allens Cay. The new anchor windlass worked well both in deploying the anchor and recovering it. So, we decided to give it a try in a little more complicated situation. We had been watching across the water to see how crowded the anchorage was; the previous night it had been very full, lots of masts. We figured that if we waited until about noon, many of the boats would have left but that it would be too early for folks to get there from Nassau. So we had the anchor up just before 1200. Despite the very short straight line distance, we had to travel about 5 nm around reefs and other obstructions to get there.

There are three cays and several rock formations that form the anchorage here, rather like at Warderick Wells. This is more interesting, an exercise in VPR, Visual Piloting Rules, i.e. pay attention and watch where you are going, do not be in a hurry to get there. Follow an unmarked channel through the cays; negotiate a very narrow but very deep channel about a boat length from the rocky shore; drive the bow of the boat out over a shallow sand bar to drop the anchor, allowing for the tide changes; when the anchor sets, let out the rode until the stern of the boat is, again, about a boat length from the rocky shore. The anchor is set in less than 7-ft. of water and there is almost 20-ft where the boat is. And we are on a short scope, needing probably another 15-ft. to get to a standard 5:1 ratio of water depth to rode. And, it's not very sheltered. And it's drop dead gorgeous, worth the time and worry unless the anchor drags.

As per usual, I swam out to the anchor prior to my shower and inspected the anchor. The bottom was very hard under a thin coat of sand. The hard point was dug in, but not very deep. We had backed the motor down hard and the anchor had held well, but it looked, at best, as a marginal set, not too concerning at the time. The left handed good news was that the Danforth anchor would not have set at all in this bottom.

We timed things just about right, there being only four or five other boat here when we arrived, one of which left shortly thereafter. This is Leaf Cay, the eastern side of the anchorage.

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Last night was very uncomfortable, the boat rocking and rolling, never still. Some things that have to be learned, I guess, the words on a chart not conveying the import of their consequences. The channel runs north/south, and indicates a strong current; the wind has been straight from the east. The tidal flow and the wind must work in opposition, somehow, to create all the movement. Despite all the evidence that the anchor held like it was welded to the bottom, the whole thing made for a sleepless night, worrying that the next tug on the chain or the next wave surge was going to be the one that caused the anchor to move.

So, we're going to declare victory, say, "Been there, done that," and move on down the road to a different place where I can sleep well at night. Don't know where, but we will be watching those little arrows that show tidal current with a deeper understanding and appreciation.

Our merit badge was to see this sunrise before we left. The gaps in the islands might also be part of the reason that we had such a rolling night.

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Posted by sailziveli 10:09 Archived in Bahamas Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises boating bahamas Comments (0)

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