Onward Cruise Journal 2007-2008

2007-2008 Bahamas Cruise

24 Dec 2007 Key Biscayne to Bimini – The Beginning of the Off-shore Adventure
Raised anchor at 0645 – pre dawn and began the trip around the S tip of Key Biscayne on a rising tide with already 2’ above MLW. I plotted a route through the channel that skirted some lumps shown as 6’ MLW – maintained > 9’ the entire way out to the WP set just outside the channel entrance.
The bearing to the new entrance channel on N. Bimini was 91º Mag and I had calculated a set of ~ 19º by the Gulf Stream so I set an autopilot course of 110º for the 45 nm (rumb line) trip. The swells were 2-3’ with an occasional 4’+ swell generated by a ~12-15 kt wind from the NE with occasional gusts to 20 kts. These are not the optimum crossing conditions one seeks but it turned out that the crossing was easy on both boats. Onward cleanly cut the swells that were approaching from 30-60º off the port bow as the wavelength was ~ ¾+ the boat length. I also set the Bimini harbor waypoint as a goal for the nav electronics to track – although had the AP sail the boat via a magnetic heading. I set up the nave display to show the entire crossing and thus was able to track Onward’s progress relative to the rumb line. Over the course of the crossing the maximum current drift velocity was 3.5 kts. We paralled the rumb line ~ 1.5 nm S for most of the crossing and went as far as 1.9 nm S of it. About ¾ of the way across, I began to reduce the Mag heading to keep the COG and bearing to WP about the same. The result was an easy arival at the harbor entrance. About 9 nm out, Jake aboard Jubilee sighted land.
The new N. Bimini entrance channel (dredged in 2006) has two sets of R&G bouys (vice the 3 sets indicated on the Navionics charts). I throttled back to 2.5 kts and make a careful approach; saw a min of 9.8’. I had my first experience ever of using water color to pilot by – it was also nice that the electronic charts agreed! We went 1/3 up the channel and tied up at Bimini Blue Water Marina to clear in. The clearance procedure was easy; but Immigration would give only a 3-mo clearance so it will have to extend it at another port if needed.
The marina was essentially empty so they offered us dockage at $0.75/ft – a good deal which we took. After topping off the fuel tanks, I showered and took a walk into town. I’d seen a sign that church services were at 7PM so I got directions to the church and set off. I encountered a policeman who told me the service were changed to midnight – of course! So I asked for a restaurant instead and had a great dinner of grilled grouper at the Bimini Big Game Club bar. I took a walk around town and all was quiet so I returned to Onward and quickly fell asleep.
25 Dec 2007 Alice Town, Bimini
In the early hours of the morning I was dimly aware of music – it turns out there had been a celebration in town after the midnight church services – but I was too tired to participate.
I walked into town and went to the 0900 Christmas Mass at Holy Name Catholic Church. It was neat to experience a very familiar liturgy but with unique island nuances. The congregation was very friendly and and the sign of piece I received a hug from all the lovely ladies. A nice way to start an association with the Bahamas.
Alice Town, the main settlement, is not at all what I expected. I had originally had not interest in visiting Bimini and only the weather made it the destination of choice. My expectation was that it was more developed and more like Miami – but this is not the case. It is a typical small island community: full of natural beauty, very much run down in appearance, nothing like the mainland. The people are very friendly and not at all standoffish.
Bimini Blue Water marina is across the street from the ruins of the hotel where Hemingway hung out. It was destroyed by fire a couple of years ago. The water is cystal clear at the piers.
26 Dec 2007 Bimini
Had breakfast at Captain Bob’s – lobster & conch omlet, delish. This set me up for a day of engine service: changed oil & filters on the Yanmar and oil in the generator. No wind, very warm.
Today a singlehander came in on a Macgregor 26. I had been feeling pretty confident about having singlehanded Onward across the Gulf – but to see someone with the guts to do it in a 26 footer – impressive.
Anthony, who I met on Christmas morning on my way to church, came by with lobster (actually, frozen lobster tails). Onward and Jubilee each bought a dozen. Had lobster for dinner – delish.
27 Dec 2007 Bimini
Before leaving Key Biscayne, the starting battery failed to start the engine by itself. I used the combiner and it gave a quick start. I have three back ups (combiner, battery switch to house bank, generator) – but this was distrubing: a problem with no time to check out because of the weather window. I hoped the battery was just run down because I had forgotten the batther switch in the Both position and the starging battery had been used overnight for hotel services. I decided the long trip would give the engine plenty of time to charge the battery so I made the crossing. Yesterday I checked the battery, connections, etc. and it still failed to start the engine on its own. So today I went into the local marine supply store run by a woman born on Bimini and found that she had an 8D battery in stock. Now this store is in a ~8x10 room! So I bought the battey and she drove it and me back to the marina in her electric golf cart. Using the electric winch and a snatch block I was able to haul out the old battery and lift the new one into place. It works! That is peace of mind!
Spent the remainder day running wires for installation of the SSB. Hope to get them in place tomorrow so we can set sail for the Berry Islands the next day.
28 Dec 2007
Spent the day in boaters purgatory: almost 8 hrs in Onward’s stern locker completing the wire runs, installing the antenna tuner, running the grounding foil to the grounding plate, insalling high voltage connection from tuner to insullated backstay antenna. Then installed the electronics at the navstation. And it worked! Life is good. Now all I need to do is learn to use it and get my license!
29-30 Dec 2007 Bahama Grand Banks
Saturday morning the weather forecast showed a strong cold front with NW – NE winds of near gale force moving in by Wednesday so it was time to move on to a secure harbor protected from the northerly winds. The Berry Isands offered several good harbors and they are the natural next stepping stone toward Nassau and southern Bahamas. We left Bimini in late morning and had a liesurly day sailing / motorsailing under light winds from the E. It was strange to sail onto the Bahama Banks with miles of water that was only 7’ to 8’ deep. Anchored in 8’ of sandy bottom in late afternoon out on the Banks a few miles NE of Cat and Gun Cays. Very quiet and calm afternoon but it got lumpy during the night and the boat bounced around. I made the mistake of leaving the dinghy in the water and had to deal with the noise of it bumping around; learned a quiet and secure dinghy is a good dinghy.
Sunday saw an early start and we raced along motorsailing at hull speed with ~15 kts of E wind. The strong >1.1 kt current and falling winds made it impossible to reach our destination in daylight so we anchored in 20’ of water. A relatively calm night and with a well-secured and quiet dingy.
31 Dec 2007 Great Harbor Cay
I was well rested so was up at 0400. I looked over the Sirius weather reports, charts, and guides to lay out which of two possibilities for the destination in the Berrys: Great Harbor Cay or Chub Cay. Pat and I discussed the options and decided on Great Harbor Cay: well protected harbor, closer by 15 mi., less expensive marina, an opportunity to explore other parts of the Berrys later as we moved toward Nassau. We motorsailed into the harbor through a rock cut only 50’ wide at 1100 hrs and were assigned adjoining slips. A nice afternoon with lunch at the pool bar followed by nap and reading poolside. Had New Years Eve dinner with Jubilee – I contributed wine and the remainder of the frozen lobster tails I bought at Bimini. Fireworks over the beach; a great way to start 2008.
1-7 Jan 2008 Great Harbor Cay
7 Jan Monday
I finally got through to Globalstar and got them to call me at the marina. We worked through the reprogramming of the phone again and wonder of wonders it started to work. I was able to make my first calls and in spite of the short periods of satellite availability, I was able to talk to Laura, Joahna, and Joseph. Getting to Joahna is still a challenge due to the time difference and our schedules. I took a walk to the Beach Club and had a great cheeseburger and beers. The beach is a lovely sandy crescent.
3 Jan Thursday
Wind still blowing stongly from N and it is cold and overcast. This is baking morning so I baked the Rosemary bread – a beautiful tasty loaf resulted. I also continued to experiment with my pepper biscuit recipe based on the no-knead bread dough and I figured out a less labor-intensive way to make the sticks. I also worked out a way to put two shelves of cookie sheets in the oven. Outcome: Great!
2 Jan Wednesday
The cold front really cooled things off but the sun was out so it was comfortable to walk around in shorts and shortsleve shirt with a fleece vest. Huge breakers were evident as the NE wind drove waves up on one of the smaller Cays on the horizon.
Walked into town and Bullocks Harbor to look around and do some shopping. While walking along the road to town a local stopped his car and gave me a ride. I asked him about the man whose sister I had met in the CVS in FL. It turned out to be his best friend and he took me the friend’s restaurant, Coliemays, and introduced me to him. The restaurant has a lovely, neat and clean dining room and bar overlooking the NW harbor and is likely the best restaurant on the island.
Both Bimini and Great Harbor Cay have proven to be a study in contrasts: wonderful physical beauty, friendly and open people, but physically run down with little respect for the surroundings: trash is strewn almost everywhere. Almost every building is run down. More than 50% of the structures show evidence of some improvement project started and then abandoned. Junk autos abound. Then there was Coulimays – clean, neat as a pin inside and out – obviously maintained with pride. Why the dichotomy?
First thing in the morning I made dough for Rosemary bread and for pepper biscuits; tomorrow will be baking day. While shopping in town, I was mostly looking around to see what type of foods were available on a smaller Cay. There were 3 small food stores and there was a fairly wide variety of items but minimal selection in any category. I began looking for locallay available foods that I might whip up into a “one–pot meal”. I selected an almost-fresh sweet onion, a bag of brown rice, a can of cooked “pidgeon peas” and a can of corned beef from Brazil. When I got back to Onward Jo Ehlers sent me over an island recipe she had found that actually combined what I had bought (except for corned beef). So I cooked it up (onion, green pepper, spices, beef bullion, rice) and then stirred in the corned beef that I had cut into slices and browned. Not bad. I brought a sample to Jubilee where it quickly disappeared. So now I have a number of servings in the fridge for a complete meal or a side.
Located the local Batelco office and almost bought a new GSM cell phone but they had run out of the $50 models and had only >$200 models so I’ll wait for my GSM phone the next time I get mail from the US. Tomorrow I’ll bring my laptop to the Batelco building to get an internet hookup. Contacted ICOM and they will email me instructions on how to “unlock” my SSB so I can reprogram it. Contacted Globalstar and had them recheck my “registration”. While trying to test the connection my phonecard went empty and I gave up.
1 Jan Tuesday
Spent the day working on boat projects, doing laundry, relaxing and reading while awaiting the arrival of the cold front around midnight – it arrived right on schedule. The Sirius weather receiver allowed me to watch its progress across the banks from FL.
Communications has proven to be a greater challenge than I expected. My GSM cellphone did not get to me before leaving the US so I have had to rely on Batelco phonecards and payphones. These have worked well at $.50 to $.85 / min. However my card has gone “empty” twice while making a call and the call was lost. There is no internet service here at the marina. I really miss being able to talk to my children whenever I want.
My Globalstar phone was supposed to be activated on 24 Dec but I have yet to be able to complete a call due to “registration” problems – this on top of the very sketchy satellite reception here in the Bahamas. My intention is to use it for data communications but so far I’ve not gotten it to work at all.
The new ICOM 802 marine SSB transceiver has been a challenge too: it will not allow me to reprogram any of the user channels. Joy!
Trying to get my daughter Joahna on the phone has proven to be a challege due to the time difference with HI – when it is a good time to talk to her, I’ve usually fallen asleep as my sleep schedule has become close to the sun’s schedule.
8 Jan 2008 Great Harbor Cay to Hoffman / Devil Cays
After a Captains Meeting aboard Onward to review the weather, I left the marina this morning in company with Jubilee and two other boats in the marina whom we’ve met and become friends with: Coxily (Martin, Chantel, Roxanne, Jonathan, Lillymay) and Patience (Don, Heesong, Christopher) both from Canada. We were joined by a Canadian catamaran (Gaitan, Daniel) who had also come into the marina. Once we rounded Little and Great Stirrup Cays and headed SE down the ocean side of the Berrys, it was an invigorating sail close haul / close reach with Onward often at hull speed in 15 -18 kts. We put in to the anchorage between Hoffman and Devil Cays and will make the crossing to Nassau tomorrow or the day after. A high “pucker factor” to go through the cut with waves breaking on either side but the water was deep and the anchorage was fairly large and well protected from NE to S from the swells. Absolutely beautiful! A good place to spend a long time with so many Cays and beaches to explore.
Once anchored, the word got out that it was my birthday and a potluck dinner was organized ashore. Gaitan had caught a Spanish Mackrel as he approached the cut so he grilled that over a beach fire. A great way to celebrate my birthday! I brought the large bottle of Champagne that Paul and Maria Fil had given me as I left Annapolis and it added to a special birthday.
9-11 Jan 2008 Hoffman / Devil Cays
11 Jan Friday
Don organized an outing to Flo’s Conch Bar on Little Harbor Cay so 4 dinghys set out in late morning to make the < 3 nm trip along the interior of the Cays. Flo’s is an institution: cold beers, great food, in a remote place. Met the owner of the ketch that has been anchored there for the last 2 years; he was tending bar. He was back with family and planning to take the boat back to the mainland to sell and buy another. Had a great lunch of conch fritters and fresh snapper – along with numerous cold Kalicks. On the return trip we put in at a beautiful beach for some swimming.
9-10 Jan Wednesday – Thursday
Time flies quickly here. I’m usually up before dawn to be ready for the weather reports on SSB at 0630. I often host Captains meetings at about 0900 aboard Onward where we discuss what we’ve heard about the weather and then look at the weather data on The Raymarine E120 and Sirius weather receiver. I am daily building more confidence in the Sirius data. The combination of this with the Chris Parker SSB weather reports are great as they support one another. Then it is boat tasks and socializing for the rest of the day until sundown when my body wants to go to sleep.
At the insitence of Martin with some help from Don, I have finally gotten my MMSI number into my DSC VHF radio and have learned how to make DSC calls to specific boats – neat! I also finally located a source for the appropriate NEMA lat/long data and tested the connection to the radio. Now I have to rerun the wire out of sight.
12 Jan 2008 Hoffman / Devil Cays to Nassau
I was up early to organize the cabin and bake some scones while listening to Chris Parker on the SSB. A Captains meeting convened at 0900 and Jubilee, Pendragon, Patience, and Onward decided to leave by 1000 to get to Nassau before the mild cold front comes thru and to be able to move on before the next front later next week.
Left the anchorage near high tide. The winds were ~10kts from SSE – amost on the nose so it was a pleasant motor sail on a sunny day with easy swell from the E. Arrived at Nassau harbor at 1630 and took a slip at Nassau Harbor Marina. Enjoyed cold Kalicks and dinner at the Poop Deck bar and restaurant at the marina while watching the Patriots game with Andrew and Carolyn from Pendragon.
13-14 Jan 2008 Nassau
Sunday. Not much is open on Sunday but I took a walk to the shopping center for groceries and met the Ehlers on the way. They had anchored Jubilee across the harbor. Joanna and I ended up food shopping – starting to be a ritual. That evening Coxily and Patience came in to the marina and Onward hosted a rolling cocktail party as crews came by.
Monday. Up early to check the weather, hit Starbucks for internet, and then shopped. I finally found a location to get the USB-serial adapter to connect up the Globalstar phone and took a cab over to get it. Had a nice time taling with the cab driver.
Communications has continued to be a problem. The wifi hot spot in the marina wants $10 a day and I’m reluctant to give out my credit card info to places I’m not sure of. Starbucks and a couple of other business locations have fee hot spots. It was pleasant to sip a mocha and sit in a cofortable armchair while surfing but for some reason I could not get my outgoing email sent. I finally got the Globalstar connected to the USB – serial adapter and the driver software installed but have not been able to get a data transmission to work. I didn’t buy the Pactor III modem for SSB email comms because I wanted to get the SSB installed and my license first. I planned to use the Globalstar for email but that has been problematic.
I decided to buy a GSM cellphone instead of waiting for my old one to get to me by mail. This was a big help in tracking down the elusive USB to serial connector.
15 Jan 2008 Nassau to Rose Island
Up early for weather and shopping. Much debate about leaving and if there was too much cloud cover to see the coral heads on the Yellow Banks on the way to the Exumas. I completed my shopping at food, hardware, marine and electronic stores then went into the dive shop and bought a wet suit. I’m not going to make much of a fashion statement in neoprene!
Pendragon, Patience and Onward decided to leave the marina. Jubilee will stay in Nassau to take the children to Atlantis water park and Coxily will stay around for a few more days. I really felt sad at leaving these good friends behind.
After taking on water and fuel, Onward followed Pendragon east out of the Nassau channel and around the Porgee rocks to the Bottom anchorage off the S coast of Rose Island where we anchored in ~ 10’. Patience joined us later that night and we had a potluck aboard Onward to watch a sailing video of the Exumas starring Carolyn and Andrew from Pendragon.
16 Jan 2008 Rose Island to Highborne Cay
After listening to Chris Parker, we decided an earlier departure for Highbourne Cay was better so we weighed anchor at 0730. Patince had taken the eastern cut through Porgee Rocks so we folllowed her out. Winds were 13-15 kts from E perfect for a beam – close reach. I furled the main and was still able to do hull speed under genoa alone as winds picked up a few kts. The idea was to follow Patience with the most shallow draft across the Yellow Banks where there are scattered coral heads. I found that Onward could outpace the other boats with the genoa alone. I depowerd the genoa to keep pace behind Patience while Pendragon went on ahead.
Due to the sun and glare in our eyes, it was hard to see the bottom conditions ahead. We called ahead to two other boats and they responded that they and made numerous crossing of this area and that the coral heads were not a problem. I felt better. Then a few minutes later, I saw a large coral head – a very dark, almost black, area of water that Patience had just passed to starboard. While I was trying to call Patience, Pendragon called to say they had just dragged across a coral head (with their 6’ 9” draft) and were slowing down. I got behind Patience so Don could alert me to anything he saw. We got through the rest of the problematic area without incident. This was a good lesson on the need for good light conditions: the sun glare in our eyes combined with patchy clouds and chop from > 15 kt winds is not a good way to make this crossing!
We anchored in the NE quadrant of Highbourne Cay in the lee of the island at about 1400. There is a large beach to explore. I was really tired so it was time for a nap. Paience invited me for dinner and it was a nice way to end the passage.
17-22 Jan 2008 Highborne Cay
The wind was 20 kts and clocked from the ENE to ESE overnight and began to die down in the morning. We had a weather meeting in the AM and decided to go into the Highbourne marina for Sat and Sun for the passage of the next front which has promises of winds to 30 kts from the N to NE.
Patience wanted to explore the surrounding area today so Onward and Pendragon crews went aboard for the journey to Allen’s Cay where we anchored. After getting a good washdown by a passing rain squall, we went ashore to see the Iguanas. A large group came down to the beach when they became aware of us but were disappointed that we did not bring food for them. Again the recurring theme: scraps of plastic waste washed up on the shore and trash (including a fairly large freezer here) left by mindless humans. I have a strong urge to go around and pick all this stuff up but this idea then crashes on the problem of what to do with it afterwards. The rugged beauty of the Cay overcomes it all.
Another nice day at the anchorage. Decided to load/download email via Globalstar phone. I have worked out how to get reliable connections and it works well when sats are available. I am starting to rely on it and begin to tell friends this – then disaster strikes: in the middle of a download, it freezes up, and the displays “offline”. I now spend hours trying to work with Globalstar customer service to restore.
Moved into the Highborne Cay Marina to wait out the front. This marina is beautify – extremely well kept! Cool Runner, a local resident, set up a cookout for marina guests ($35 ea.) conch stew, fish, barbecues chicken and ribs, Bahamian rice, wonderful rum cakes – Delish!
Got out sewing machine and fixed my Bosuns Chair. Then went up mast to fix the masthead light – lense was offset 15 degrees to port. Got some great pictures of the island from this perch. Don, Andrew and I headed out to do some snorkeling before the front moved in. We found one small coral head area which was its own little world of reef life. Very interesting to see the community of plants and fish that have formed this little island of life in a sea of sand on the banks.
Boat chore day. Washer Dryer worked normally – maybe the problem was just a kinked drain hose. We’ll see if it works OK next time too.
Still trying to resolve things with the Globalstar phone. Get a cell phone call from Globalstgar tech rep telling me phone has a hardware problem and will need to be replaced. Before he can give me info, my cell phone uses up its prepaid $ and dies. I had bought and tried to load another $20 but the card was defective. Another depressing day of comms problems.
We will leave today to begin journey to Waderwick Wells where we want to be secure by Thursday night for the next front.
23-24 Jan 2008 Normans Cay
Left marina at Highborne at 1100 with a 15 kt E wind. Had a liesurly sail under genoa alone W and the S on the Bank to Normans Cay. Some residual clouds and wind chop made the passage across the shallows at the SW tip off Taffia Pt a bit of a challenge but there were no large coral heads to deal with. It was low tide and I saw some depths of as little as 7’ along the way. Patience with its 5’ draft took the inside route and was already at anchor. Good holding in 8 – 11’ in sand. Got to see the anchor in the bottom for the first time due to the clarity of the water and calm conditions: The Manson was burried up to the tip of the hoop. – love that anchor.
Rerigged the boarding ladder for the dinghy: changed step spacing, depth of steps in water; arranged for ladder to attach to the dinghy at the far side from where I will use it; added hand grabs starting at attachment point. Tested it several times. I’m now confident I can get back in the dinghy easily.
When swmimming off the boat in 82 deg and crystal clear water. Used the new suction hand holds I bought in FL. These allow me to easily hang on to the side of the boat to clean the waterline. This is the first time it has been done since leaving Annapolis in June. I need to clean the barnacles off the bow thruster as there are enough to limit the thrust it can develop. I checked the keel for the results of bumping into the reef off the marina in Nassau: looks fine; perhaps a small scratch on the starboard leading edge.
Went off in dinghy with Don, Andrew and Carolyn to visit N tip of the island and dive on the coral heads. Found a small head and saw a lot more variety of sea life. Water was colder here and I’m going to have to wear my wetsuit from now on to be able to spend more than 5-10 min in the water. Managed to run out of gas < a half mile from the boat and got towed the rest of the way.
Went in for dinner at Mac Duff’s on the beach – a bar restaurant with a few cottages for rent. Interior was beautiful: handcrafted Brazillian hardwood bar, comfortable lounge area. Only substitute chef on duty but a fine job done on delicious burger and fries –this is what I craved - strange. Was introduced to Sands, a new Bahamian beer; Great!
25-28 Jan 2008 Waderick Wells Cay - Great Exuma Land & Sea Park
Another cold front is scheduled to come through late tonight so we made reservations for moorings at Waderick Wells Cay at the headquarters of the Exumas Land and Sea Park. Again the 3 boats wandered separate ways. Onward took a liesurly motor as there was no wind. Passed by a Hatian sailing vessel running N up the Banks with a huge gaff rigged main. Took up mooring 18 on the W leg of the mooring field not far from park headquarters. Area is absolutely beautiful with the varied blue colors of the anchorage waters, blue sky, rugged rocky islands.
There is wifi here so I went back to Globalstar battles: trying to arrange them to send me a replacement for the non-working phone. Got a reply from the last email that they wanted a copy of the invoice I was given at purchase, not just barcodes from package. The best I could do was send an image of the check I used to purchase it downloaded from the credit union.
Spent the morning trying to troubleshoot the problem with the non-working cockpit remote station for the VHF. It is a real limit not to have the use of the ship’s station with its masthead antenna out here given the distances between boats. The handheld barely is usable among the 3 boats when we are sailing apart. Discovered the problem: the plastic cover of the coiled wire for the handset itself has hardned and cracked at interior of every coil allowing salt water to penetrate into the cable and short out connections.
Went for a hike around Waderick Cay at mid day. Between the snorkling and the climbing my legs have gotten a real workout vice what they got used to on the ICW trip. The island is really rugged. The limestone rock has essentially no topsoil on it. Apparently all these islands were forested but after the 1700s were strip cut and the soil washed away. Now they are home to really hardy plants that can tollerate the dry and salty conditions. The rocks themselves are highly eroded with many holes and very sharp surfaces. An easy place to get hurt. I made the mistake of hiking alone – not something to be done again as it is easy to fall and get hurt on the sharp rocks. Got to see a couple of blow holes – where waves on the seaward side crash into and underwater cave and force air up through holes to the surface – weird noises like deep pipe organ notes with a wheeze. Also saw the cairne at Boo Boo Hill where ships leave wooden signboards marking their visit. If I my legs recover I may hike back up to leave a sign before departing.
Came back to Onward and patiently sat tracing wires to the remote station mount from which handset and speaker cables spin off from the cable to the main station. Managed to work out how to connect up the remote speaker so now I can at least use the main station to listen for calls from other ships. I will still have to go below to use the mike.
After two frustrating calls to Globalstar today – nice people but the sat connection always dies before they can help me - I got an email that they will ship me the replacement phone. Need to set that up tomorrow. Also found out the new Raymarine 218 VHF is at St. Brendan’s Isle and they will forward to the freight service to get to me in Staniel Cay.
The comms hastle has been the only problematic part of this trip thus far. I should have gotten it all set right before leaving FL.
The front came through at mid day and it has been blowing > 25 kts since. This allows the wind generator to provide about all the power I use.
29 Jan 2008 Pipe Cay
Pleasant anchorage off the abandoned USN Decca Station. The US spent a lot of $ on this facility and it is a shame to see it become derilict. It could have become a great marina – still has potential. Went snorkling in the area but didn’t find much sea life. Anchorage was rolly at night.
30 Jan - 3 Feb 2008 Little Farmers Cay
Patience & Onward decided to go to Farmers Cay for their annual Farmers Cay First Friday in February Festival – the 5F – to get a mooring as anchorages look to be tough to come by. It was a beautiful day for a lazy motor sail. Patience took the N route in while Onward took the “deeper” south route. Following the electronic chart I ran aground and very luckily managed to get off because I had gotten disoriented. At this time Patience appeared around the S tip of the cay and showed me where the deeper water was. After taking a mooring at the SE tip of the cay, we went into town for lunch and to attend the volunteers meeting for the festival. We met a good group of other cruisers at the meeting. All volunteered to stage various events during the Friday – Saturday festival. As the only bachelor in the crowd, I got the nod for organizing the culminating event: the wet t-shirt contest. My first thought: how do I explain this to my daughters???
Cleaned up the boat then went in for another volunteers meeting. Met several cruisers I had heard on the VHF or SSB. Baked bread, scones and pepper biscuits to take advantage of getting the propane tank filled tomorrow.
Filled the propane by helping the local vendor to tip his 100 lb tank upside down so the liquid would flow into my 10 lb tank – an experience. Festival started. Biggest event is inter-island C-class boat races.
Most visitors are at the boat races on the NW tip of the island. Relatively quiet at Ocean Cabin. The wet t-shirt contest comes off with 4 contestants. It was a lot better than I expected it to be. I earned my pay by keeping several local men in check. The contestants enjoyed the free rum punch!
A good day spent working on boat chores and relaxing.
4-6 Feb 2008 Staniel Cay / Big Major Cay
An early start to catch the maximum high tide for leaving Little Farmers Cay. I find that one of the greatest challenges in single-handing is casting off from a mooring when there is a wind > 10 kts blowing. I added a 3” dia. SS ring to the new ¾” Mega-braid mooring bridle I made. The bridle does a good job of reducing the tendance for Onward to tack while on a mooring. I used a dock line to tie SS ring to the mooring’s line but it did not lend itself to a quick release and I had to use a second line tensioned via the anchor windlas to take enough stress off the first to allow me to unfasten it. I now have a good idea for how to set it up for a quick release and I will try this the next time I use a mooring.
I followed local knowledge – follow the land contour ~40 yds off shore around the S tip of the Cay and N until even with the white house on Dabba Hill – then go due W to the Explorer waypoint for Farmers Cay. The trip was uneventful and I saw no less than 8’. With 15 kt winds from ESE, I had a beautiful liesurly sail under genoa alone up to Staniel Cay. I was in no hurry because I would need to wait for the next high tide to get into Staniel. I then decided to go anchor W of Big Majors Spot Cay, a nice big anchorage with ~10 ft of water. After anchoring I took the dinghy into Staniel Cay Yacht Club and found my packages: mail, the replacement Globalstar phone, and the new Raymarine 218 VHF! Wow! My letters, etc. must have worked because I did not get charged duty – just the 7% stamp tax on the radio. When I got back to the boat I immediately tried the Globalstar phone and found it programmed and ready to go! Fantastic! So I called my 3 children but only managed to talk with Laura.
Spent the morning running wires and installing the new Raymarine 218 VHF. Works fantastic! What a relief that I will again have a good long range VHF at the cockpit helm station. Met Carolyn’s mother and had drinks with them at Club Thunderball watching the sun set over the grotto made famous by James Bond’s Thunderball movie. A great location and a facility with a lot of potential but only a few people were there.
A good day for working on paperwork, boat chores, a visit to town, and then the crew of Pendraggon over for cocktails. Brought a copy of the bread recipe over to Altisima VII 1/2 a 97’ cruiser whose owner/captain I met at the SCYC bar.
7-16 Feb 2008 Black Point, Great Guana Cay
Today was the mail boat day at Staniel Cay! There were fresh vegetables available at the stores so I went ashore in the morning and shopped: cucumbers, squash, peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes. You really learn to appreciate fresh vegetables here. After shopping I set sail for Black Point on Great Guana Cay. There was a S wind at 10-15 kts so it was a port tack out and then a starboard tack to Black Point. A nice anchorage with >180 degrees protection but open to the West. After a quick shower, a trip to town to visit the stores and Loraine’s Café: a great place for a couple of beers and to take advantage of the internet connection to catch up on my electronic banking for the month. I decided to stay for dinner to sample Loraine’s home cooked fish dinner.
Weather predictions are for > 20 kt winds from the NE Monday thru Wed so I decided to just stay put. Joseph calls and arranges to fly from Ft. Lauderdale to Staniel Cay on Sunday the 17th so this is a good place to wait, relax, do boat chores. I decide to do a load of laundry at the Laundromat ashore – the best one so far in the Bahamas. I am really looking forward to his visit. We had such a great time last summer when we cruised from RI to Nantucket.
I received an email from Tina Burke that two of the boats they cruised with last year are here: Lady of Lorien and Misty. Sure enough they are anchored nearby and I meet their crews at the Laundromat – Tina had told me that doing laundry ashore was one of the best ways to meet people and it works! However it is still nice to have the Splendide aboard so I don’t need to desperately search for a place to do laundry.
I am having problems with my VHF antenna. The masthead antenna has good receiving sensitivity but I am not getting much power out and my friends can’t hear me when I respond to their DSC calls. I switch to the emergency back up antenna and it has poor reception range and much more noise – but more output power – go figure. Looks like I need to go up the mast when the winds die.
While walking ashore, I meet Judy and Steve Furguson from Summer Breeze. They invited me to go for a walk with them and we explore the area N of the Black Point settlement. I realize how much I miss the daily walks I was taking before starting the cruise – one of the few drawbacks. Loraine shows us the cottage her husband built and they now have for rent – very nice. They are building another next to it. She has become a good businesswoman and works hard and has attention to detail so lacking in most here – it really sets them apart. Black Point is one of the nicest and best-kept places I have seen thus far. Still several partially built and then abandoned buildings but the town is neat and clean. The business is also neat and well maintained.
I’m starting to get proficient with the Sailrite sewing machine: fixing boat shorts, shortening jack lines, hemming a sun shade to hang behind the helm chair, etc.
I’ve also become proficient at naps in the cockpit. Especially after being ashore in the heat of the afternoon and having a beer or two while checking email. By the time I get back aboard all I want to do is nap so I take off my clothes and enjoy an air bath and a snooze in the cockpit – one of the benefits of having installed privacy cloths along the stern quarters.
I’ve been hoisting the swim ladder up under the dinghy – so I can put it down with the dinghy in place. This seems to work well – but I might not do it in rough seas. I sewed a nylon webbing strap so I can hang a small block from the davit crossbar. I run a line through the block to raise and suspend the ladder while underway. When I get back to the Annapolis area, I think I will go ahead with my idea of cutting the ladder in half and welding hinges on it so it will be able to fold under the dinghy.
Judy and Steve invite me over for drinks and I bring them a copy of the no-knead bread recipe. I hear on the VHF that Coxily and Jubilee are a few miles N of me but they can’t hear my attempts to contact them.
Pendragon had sailed to Black Point with me but then left to bring their guests back to Staniel before the winds set in. Patience came in for a few days and then also went north again so Onward has been alone. On Wednesday the 13th, Pendragon returned and we met ashore for Loraine’s ribs. On Thursday the 14th, Jubilee sailed in and says hello on the VHF before rushing in to do laundry before the horde of boats that sailed in today goes in to do their laundry. It is amazing how one gets used to simple accomplishments like doing the laundry or finding vegetables or eggs – life at the basics!
Andrew and Carolyn come over in the morning and help me go up the mast (again, God Bless the electric winch). It is amazing how far up the island chain I can see from this perch. I take the VHF antenna apart, clean and polish what I can and then reassemble – fun while wind is gusting to 20 kts. This seems to have some benefit as I can be heard further and without static – we’ll see if this lasts.
16-18 Feb 2008 Staniel Cay / Big Majors Spot
I moved Onward up to Big Majors to be in place to get Joseph at the Staniel Cay airstrip Sunday morning.
When I dingy in and then walk to the airstrip to get Joe at 0930 – there are no passengers there from the plane that just came in. A nice woman from Watermakers Air told me he took a golf cart into the Staniel Cay Yacht Club and then she gave me a lift in. Joe and I had a great breakfast at the SCYC before taking the golf cart back to the dinghy. We immediately changed into swimsuits and went off the explore the Thunderball Grotto – and underwater cave complex used in the filming the James Bond movie. While there, Joe met my friends from Jubilee and Coxily. After exploring the caves, I went back to Onward to rest while Joe went off with Pat and Martin to try his hand at spear fishing.
Sunday night Onward hosted the crews from Jubilee, Coxily, and Patience for drinks and dinner so Joe could meet my cruising Buds. We had thirteen guests aboard for a lively evening.
Joe needed to catch up on sleep so we had a lazy day at the anchorage. When he got up he decided it was time to dive and clean the bottom of the boat. We tried out the electric air compressor and regulator so he could scrape the prop clean of barnacles as well as clean them out of the bow thruster. While going back to finish that job, Joe was surprised by a 6’ Nurse Shark that decided to swim by a few feet below him. I don’t think I ever saw him move so fast – but the shark lazily swam on ignoring him. My personal diver also installed a new zinc on the prop shaft. What service!
In the evening we went ashore for a Bahamian cookout on the beach where Joe got to meet more of the locals as well as visit with our guests from Sunday night. On the way back to the boat, the outboard started smoothly and then began running on only 1 cylinder. It was too dark to try to find out why (likely a wet lower spark plug due to rogue wave while it was beached) so we had a long and very slow trip back to Onward – hoping all the time the engine would just keep running.
19-20 Feb 2008 Cambridge Cay
We decided to go up to Cambridge Cay to visit one of the better coral reefs at the southern end of the Land & Sea Park. It was exciting navigating out through one cut and then back in the next one north to get into the anchorage area. We got there at just about low tide and managed to ground on the shoal at the entrance of the mooring area. We managed to get off without too much trauma and then anchored as all the moorings were taken. Joe dived on the keel and declared all was fine – I had ground off any barnacles that had been growing under it in the places where I wore off the bottom paint on the shoals of the ICW. Pendragon was anchored near by so Joe got to meet Carolyn and Andrew who then took us off to dive the reef. It was the nicest reef dive I experienced in the Bahamas thus far with many different types of coral, vivid colors, and large variety of fish. I left Joe with Carolyn and Andrew while I went back to check on the boat as the tidal flow changed. All was fine. Onward hosted Carolyn and Andrew for drinks and dinner – a great time was had by all.
We had a lazy morning. Joe dived to help untangle Pendragon’s rode that had become wrapped around and under a coral boulder on the bottom. He unwrapped the chain and then swam off to the side to watch as Andrew backed up and was able to flip the boulder of the chain. We left the anchorage in late morning and repeated our course back to Staniel Cay. We reanchored at Big Majors Spot and went into town for dinner at the SCYC. I didn’t call ahead so we had to eat from the bar menu – which was fine. Joe and I had a great time together. It brought to mind the Italian saying: You have to love your children because they are your children – but it is really nice when you like them. I certainly like mine!
20-22 Feb 2008 Staniel Cay / Big Majors Spot to Black Point
At 0730, high tide, we move Onward into the SCYC fuel pier where I top off fuel and water. They allowed me to stay there while I saw Joe off to the airport. I was sad to see Joe go am proud to have a great son. Being able to sail with my children now that they are adults is a great joy.
I decide to sail to Black Point now that Joe has left and I’m all provisioned. It is a beautiful day to sail with winds from the SW. As I approach Black Point, I can see Jubilee and Coxily at anchor. I decided to take advantage of the fact I now know this anchorage well and the wind is favorable so I play smartass: reduce sail to genoa alone and sail Onward into the anchorage, around Coxily and the go off to drop anchor under sail. It was a good show but now that I’ve done it I won’t have the need to do it again.
23-24 Feb 2008 Black Point to Adderly Cay
Onward, Pendragon, Jubilee, and Coxily all decided today was the day to move south toward Georgetown. Jubilee and Coxily decided to go down the western / Banks side of the cays while Pendragon & Onward decided to go outside. I made a bad assumption and was surprised when Pendragon turned north out of Black Point to take the Cut, which is just north of Great Guana Cay. There was a pretty good east wind blowing against the end of the outgoing tide so there were some large standing waves to get through. Onward handled it just fine with waves breaking over the bow – not a time for engine problems! It was a pleasant motorsail south as the wind and waves slacked off. We made the easy entry through Adderly Cut and anchored mid way up the east coast of Normans Pond Cay.
The weather was pleasant and Georgetown was only a half-day trip away so we decided to hang out on Sunday taking the dinghy in to explore Normans Pond Cay. We were unable to find the entrance to the old salt ponds. We were lucky to encounter the island manager for the Caribbean Research Center on Stocking Island. This is a NOAA fisheries research center that has been suffering from funding cuts so it is only really functioning in the summer when college students and researchers come in. We learned that the Conch population is being reduced by over fishing and that the Bahamas will need to work fish conservation efforts more strongly. The hard part is that the many subsistence fishermen need to fish and any workable solution needs to address this.
25 Feb 2008 Adderly Cay to Georgetown
In the morning Pendragon & Onward leave for the trip to Georgetown – again motoring into the light wind. The trip is easy including the entrance though Conch Cut and the meandering journey south through the long bay separating Great Inagua Cay from Stocking Island. The harbor had several hundred sailboats at anchor – but it is a big harbor and we easily find a good anchorage south of Black Point on Stocking Island. It is close to Volleyball Beach and across the bay from Georgetown. After getting settled we take a dinghy in to town to see what this sailing Mecca has to offer. Its amazing how gaga one gets over a good food market, gas stations, internet cafes, etc. etc. Exuma Market has a great selection – including Fennel Seeds so now I can bake more Pepper Biscotti.
26 Feb – 4 Mar 2008 Georgetown
Chris Parker is in town for a weather seminar. I spend the day at the seminar and doing some shopping. Chris gives a great seminar and I buy his weather book and find an updated edition of Van Zant’s book that I had been searching for. I also find out from one of the VEs that the FCC Ham License exam is to be given on Friday at Volleyball Beach! At Black Point I had taken advantage of the great internet access to download the FCC CFR Part 97 as well as the Technician and General Class exam question sets. On the sail down to Georgetown I had amused myself by reading these with the idea of taking the exams somewhere along the ICW on my return home. Now I decide to get serious and study for the exams on Friday. I also meet Tom and Sandy from Anania who we rafted with at Vero Beach. Tom is the person who convinced me to buy and install the SSB and now I find he is one of the Voluntary Examiners!
Wednesday, Thursday.
This is like studying for my comprehensive exams in grad school. However studying from Onward while anchored in aqua-blue tropical waters is a much better venue. But I am diligent in my studies and do not go out to play with the other kids.
Today the FCC ham license exam was given at the Chat & Chill on Volleyball Beach by volunteer examiners who are part of the cruising fleet. I had about 80% of the 350+ Technician Class exam question set to study from and the test was easy. I had all of the >400 General Exam question set to study from but as I start to take the exam I find out I had studied from an outdated question set. Joy! But I slog on and don’t expect much only to learn that I passed both exams and I am now a licensed Ham. [Children, no smart-ass remarks!]. I celebrate with lunch at the Chat & Chill and inviting folks over for a Sundowner.
It blows > 20 kts most of the day but we need to get out so we go ashore for Trivial Pursuit at the St. Francis Resort for the evening.
5 Mar 2008 Georgetown to Calabash Bay
Wednesday and we make an early morning departure out of the south cut and head toward Long Island. There was a good wind from the ESE so I sailed on a starboard tack all the way to the waypoint at Joes Sound. The entrance to Joes Sound proves to be too shallow for any of the boats to enter. Drat – I wanted a picture of Onward in Joes Sound. We anchor off the beach in Calabash Bay where there is > 1 nm of beautiful beach with a few nice homes sprinkled along it.
6-10 Mar 2008 Calabash Bay to Thompson Bay
Today we go ashore and explore the shopping opportunities in Thompson Bay. We are amazed to find that there are 2 very well stocked food markets, a hardware/household goods store, and marine store. We explore the caves that go from the shoreline about 100 m E to under the N-S main road! Lots of bats, stalactites and stalagmites.
Daylight Savings Time is here! Everyone’s internal clock is off but we are looking forward to sun later into the evening hours. Many cruisers are like me and tend to go to sleep not long after sundown. The mighty hunters aboard Jubilee, Coxily, and Kwitcherbitchen drag me out for some spear fishing in the blue holes in the bay. These are amazing structures: holes that appear in the middle of 5-9’ shallow waters. They are underwater caves that appear to be connected to the E, ocean, side of the island and there is tidal flow through them. Fish use them as great places to hide. We explore 3 of them. I get to ride in Kelly’s rocket dinghy: he has a 30 hp Yamaha on a 10’ RIB. I’ve learned that my 8 hp outboard is not sufficient for moving my RIB through the chop to get on a plane with an more weight than me – and sometimes not then. I now learn that 30 hp is way too much (Kelly’s original engine was stolen in the Abacos and this is what was available to replace it) as I am beaten up in the fast ride over the chop. I invited all the hunters over for a post-hunt cocktail. While I am enjoying cocktails with my friends, Drew and Jonathan come to visit and to sample my Pepper Biscotti as I had just baked a new batch. While I’m busy, the two rascals eat over ½ the biscotti! I learn that there will be a bonfire and potluck ashore tonight to celebrate DST. We have a great time at the bonfire. Kelly plies me with 2 immense Dark & Stormys and that combined with the fact my leg muscles are Jell-O from all the swimming requires me to be assisted into a dinghy and delivered back to Onward at the end of the evening.
A nice quiet day to recover from Sunday.
11 Mar 2008 Thompson Bay to Santa Maria Point
Tuesday. Pendragon & Onward departed Thompson Bay in order to catch the high tide through the shallows on the course back north. We decided to anchor at the small cove north of Calabash Bay and just south of Cape Santa Maria. We anchored off the most beautiful beach I have seen thus far. Beautiful sandy stretches combined with rugged rock that comes down to the water in places. There is a large cliff about a ¼ mile back from the beach that appears to be full of caves. The water is absolutely clear and the sand is soft and white. Wow! We dinghy ashore to swim and walk the beach – it is pristine. I believe this is one of the beaches Dr. Leatherman aka “Dr. Beach” has on his list of the top 10 beaches in the world.
12-13 Mar 2008 Santa Maria Point to Conception Island
Wednesday. This morning Pendragon and Onward were hailed by Coxily as they motorsailed up from Thompson Bay. They along with Jubilee and Kwitcherbitchen are on the way to Conception Island and we will follow. Martin is ecstatic as the tool I made for him worked and they were able to increase the pitch of his propeller, which is now enabling him to travel much faster.
Winds were light from the SE but I decided it was a good day for a leisurely sail over the ~15 nm to Conception. Along the way the winds shifted further aft and I completed the sail under genoa alone. Perhaps a Code-0 sail is something I should add to Onward’s inventory next year. The other boats motor sailed and were all at anchor when I arrived – not a bad thing as I now had access to “local knowledge” of the shoals and anchorage. Shortly after getting settled and organizing Onward, Coxily invited me over with the others for some cake and refreshments. This was then followed by a “Sundowner” on the beach organized by Fine Lion and we got a chance to meet cruisers from several other boats: Sunbourne, Dream Maker, and others.
Thursday. At noon 6 dinghies set out to explore the interior of the island whose interior is almost all mangrove swamp and supporting creeks. The single opening to the sea was about 1 nm away and at near high tide we were able to go over the coral reef bar at its mouth and into the sandy streams of the interior. We were able to see many of the sea turtles that make this island their home. They are really fast underwater! We anchored in a deep hole and then went swimming along the canals into the mangroves. I found this magical. In many places the mangroves had built up solid sand under them forming deep overhangs in which shoals of fish lurked. In other places there was several feet of water under the mangroves with just their roots coming down. Small fish lurked at the edges and much larger fish could be seen 50-100’ deeper in the mangrove roots. I encountered a 1’ long fish and watched as it found a small clam and then continued to hold it in its mouth and bang it against a stone or an old shell. It occasionally would spit the clam at a hard object. I had not seen this type of behavior in a fish before. I was exhausted from swimming so I made it an early night.
I’m now a HAM: KJ4CPB. While on the SSB trying to arrange for a boat leaving Georgetown to bring Jubilee’s mail over, I learned that my call sign has been assigned by the FCC. Great!
14-16 Mar 2008 Conception Island to Flamingo Bay, Rum Cay
Today was a bit sad as a number of boats in the ad hoc flotilla went their own way: Coxily, Pendragon and Fine Lion. Coxily with Chantel and Martin has decided to limit their cruise to 1-yr having originally planned for a 3-yr circumnavigation and now need to be back in Quebec by 1 July. Pendragon with Carolyn and Andrew is to return to Georgetown to meet a friend for a week visit after which they will continue their trip south toward Panama. Fine Lion with Kim & Steve left for Emerald Bay. I had no idea how much I would enjoy meeting great people along the way – but it has been the best part of the cruise! I will really miss them all!
Entering Flamingo Bay at the NW tip of Rum Cay was my first real encounter with large coral heads. The entrance was initially very easy from >1000 ft it quickly shoaled to ~40’ and held this for most of the trip toward shore slowly shoaling to ~20’ about ¼ nm from shore with patches of coral rock that were only 1-2’ off the bottom. At the ¼ mi point, Kelly from Kwitcherbitchen hailed me and said he would come out in the dingy because I had no one to spot heads from the bow so I stopped and waited for him to board. At that time the bottom changed dramatically – there was still mostly sand with patches of darker coral – but the coral heads were now almost to the surface in 14-20’ of water! We wove our way around until we were in a large patch of sand just SW of PeeWee Point. It was a bit crowed for 3 boats but the sandy bottom was great holding. After anchoring, I swam around to inspect the coral heads nearby and was amazed by the way they just sprout from the bottom. Unfortunately the coral was devoid of most color and the sea life was limited. Other cruisers say this had slowly happened over the last 20 years. The nearby heads were much closer to the surface than I first thought so I went back aboard and moved the anchor. Again, I can’t say enough good things about the Manson Supreme anchor – it bites and sets so well. Jubilee declared pizza night and we all gathered there for a treat – Joanna makes fantastic pizza.
Saturday. A quiet day for catching up on logs, boat chores, calling family and friends, working on the dinghy registration decals, exploring ashore, and doing some sun bathing on a secluded beach. The wind seemed to be backing from the S to the ESE and I became concerned at how close the coral heads were getting so I again moved the anchor. Jubilee and Onward are now very close neighbors – but bumpers will work with the boat and not with the coral heads. Pat and Drew from Jubilee caught a large Nassau Grouper and again invited the others over for dinner: grouper tacos – delish! In the moonlight we could clearly see the bottom and watched small reef sharks cruise the area.
16-21 Mar 2008 Flamingo Bay to Port Nelson, Rum Cay
Sunday. There is a cold front on its way tonight or tomorrow so we decided to move to Sumner Point Marina to wait it out. This morning Pat and Kelly decided to SCUBA dive on a pinnacle N of the wreck on the shoal at the W edge of Flamingo Bay and I went along to baby-sit the dinghy and assist them getting back aboard. They dived to 90’ and found a wall teaming with life – much more than in any of the shallower areas we have seen in the last week. When that is done we prepared the boats to leave and then had to work our way out through the coral heads – what an effort. Once we get out to 20’, many are just very low and barely break above the sandy bottom but others come up close to the surface and it is hard to tell one from the other – so I steered around all of them following Kwitcherbitchen. It seems on the way in I lucked out and chose a fairly benign route until I was close in to shore. The rest of the trip to the marina is uneventful, the entrance through the reef is easy as the channel is well marked, and we are all safely tied up by 1600. A cocktail hour turns into a cocktail 4-hour aboard Onward as the kids watch a movie aboard Kwitcherbitchen. The marina is well managed and maintained but there are noseeums and mosquitoes, ah well.
Mango from Seattle comes in right behind Onward and is carrying the mail from Georgetown to Jubilee. They heard about my SSB request and were kind to follow up.
We weather the cold front but are trapped by huge waves generated by a deep Low far to the N so we spend Monday through Thursday doing boat chores. At Kelly’s suggestion, I change the location of the bow lift point in the RIB so now the davitt falls form a trapezoid and I can lift the bow up into contact with the davitt arm. It is now very secure.
21 Mar 2008 Port Nelson, Rum Cay to Calabash Bay, Long Island
First thing in the morning I topped off the fuel and water tanks and the headed out of the marina before the tide got too low. Again the trip out through the reef was fairly easy with a minimum depth of ~8.5’. We motor sailed to Calabash Bay for the night. I had wanted to go back to the beautiful beach at Cape Santa Maria but the huge breakers off shore promised a rolly anchorage.
22 Mar 2008 Calabash Bay, Long Island to Georgetown, Great Exuma
Saturday. We got an early morning start and had a great sail into Elizabeth Harbor on a reach. The wind was so favorable I decided to sail through the tricky entrance which is a bit disconcerting as you have to sail straight at a rocky cay and make a 90º turn to starboard about 100 yds off the shore. Breaking waves on the rocks makes it visually “exciting”. I was able to sail all the way up to anchor off Government dock.
23-27 Mar 2008 Georgetown, Great Exuma to Masters Harbor, Great Exuma
Easter Sunday.
I was up and in the dinghy at 0600 for a ride across the harbor to Stocking Island where I joined others to hike to the ocean side to participate in the Easter Sunrise Service conducted by the Beach Church. A beautiful sunrise over the ocean accompanied hymns sung by the > 50 cruisers gathered. A very rewarding experience. That evening, I dingied over to participate in the Triva contest at the St. Francis resort where I met Carolyn and Andrew and their friend Barb. While I was thus engaged, Jubilee and Kwitcherbitchen rafted up to Onward on port and starboard sides. The kids enjoyed this a lot.
We decided to move anchorage further SE to Masters Harbor / Redshanks tucked in behind some small cays to wait out the coming front that promised strong squalls and NE winds. By the time we got down there, the inner harbor was fairly full of boats. Jubilee and Kwitcherbitchen entered first but awaited my entry to allow me to anchor first but I decided to leave the limited room to them and instead anchored in the outer hole.
After getting settled, Onward became the science school boat and 6 children arrived via the school bus dinghy for science lessons on energy and chemistry. It was great fun with 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th graders in the group. The planned ½ hr lesson turned into 1 ½ hrs as we all had great fun and they all asked very insightful questions and made great observations during the wrap-up question & answer session.
It is blowing > 20 kts and Pat, Kelly and I take Kelly’s RIB into the Georgtown Marina where we get a cab into town. Last night there was a fire in town and a house burned to the ground leaving the occupant without anything. The cruisers started to organize a donation program and I was able to get information and contacts from our cabbie that I passed on to the organizers. We manage to get our visas extended – finally. Kelly and I enjoyed beers and lunch at the Peace & Plenty after shopping.
I moved back to anchor off Kidd Cove while I went ashore to get my visa fixed – the wrong dates were put on my card. I met Carolyn & Andrew in town and we then moved our boats to Sand Dollar Beach for the night. I invited Carolyn and Andrew over for dinner as we will be parting company with them going south to Panama for the Summer.
I moved anchor to off Peace & Plenty to shorten the wet ride into town. I need to develop a spray shield for places like this where there are short choppy waves that splash up and soak me. The Igloo cooler I installed in the stern of the RIB as a seat works great and keeps anything I put into it dry.
28 Mar 2008 Georgetown to Black Point
Friday. Chris Parker made the case that Thursday – Sunday were going to be good days to move before a trough moved in with high winds and squalls. Thus a general exodus of boats began from Elizabeth Harbor. Jubilee, Kwitcherbitchen and Onward headed north toward Black Point. Winds were light from ESE so it was a good motorsail up the Exumas. We decided to forego Galliot Cut and continue N to Dothan Cut in order to give the other two boats more time to fish. We had planned to use the larger and more benign Galliot Cut because both Kwitcherbitchen and Onward had experienced large standing waves on two different occasions when E winds opposed the tide ebb. It turns out our wait worked: Jubilee caught 4 fish and the Dothan Cut was flat as we caught it at the end of the ebb. Unfortunately Jubilee also caught a 4’ Mahi Mahi only to lose it just as it was about to be gaffed and brought on board – much sadness there.
We anchored at Black Point and I went over to Jubilee and rescued Joanna from the fish cleaning. We then were joined by the others for cocktails and a potluck of fish and chicken cooked on Onward’s grill.
29 Mar - 3Apr 2008 Black Point
According to Chris we’ll be here for most of the week to outwait strong squalls being spawned by an area of “convective instability” E of here. Ah, well, this is a nice place to be stuck. Up early to take advantage of the laundromat at Black Point followed by a visit to Loraine’s Café for beer, lunch, and use of the WiFi.
I spent the afternoon creating a spreadsheet of my travels so I can use it to begin planning my return to the Chesapeake. I find from 28 October to 23 December, Onward was moving on 33 days, traveled about 1400 nm, and averaged about 46 nm a day on the trip from Annapolis to Key Biscayne.
Went ashore to donate some paper supplies to the tutoring program and use the internet at Loraine’s. I took my razorblade scraper along and cleaned the manufacturer’s stickers off the windows on the addition she had built to house the internet equipment – just a bit of pay back to a wonderful person who provides a great service to cruisers.
I am continually amazed at how the cruiser’s world is so vastly different from my former life. For example, today the major accomplishment of the day was arranging for and getting a haircut. That done, the cruiser feels he has achieved a major accomplishment where as my former self would have considered this to be a minor item to be stuffed into an over busy day. Perhaps the more amazing thing is that it feels natural and good – with none of my former self-harassment at not having achieved more. Maybe there’s a touch of the “Islands, Mon” syndrome, too. Ida also runs the great laundromat here and her hair-cutting station is a chair on the back patio overlooking the Black Point Harbor – the most beautiful venue I have ever had for a haircut.
Today was Gumbo Day! I have been dreaming and planning about learning how to cook a good gumbo to add to what has now become a fairly wide group of one-pot meals. These include beef stew, chili stew, Italian chili stew, pot roast, and curry. They allow me to have a great meal for dinner and then 4 to 6 more frozen for later. [Of course, there is also the ultimate comfort food, Pasta!] I began dreaming of making the gumbo after having a great meal at Harry’s in St. Augustine. I corresponded with them and they actually shared their recipe with me. I also came across another recipe in the NY Times. Since I’m rapidly coming to the end of my cruise in the Bahamas, I decided today was THE day to try this. As a first step, I also made my first “roux” – the NYT helped here. Basically I read the two recipes and then extemporized based on the ingredients I had available. I used sausage, shrimp, and a fish fillet from the batch caught by Pat on the sail here last Friday. Some of the unique canned vegetables I found in FL really helped: tomatoes & okra, squash & onions. Result: Delish! I invited Jubilee and Kwitcherbitchen over and we enjoyed it served over red beans & rice together with freshly baked focasia bread. It served 5 adults and 5 children – the adults with 2 servings each and there was enough left over for me to freeze 3 meals! To top it all Jo made crustless apple pie that was served with ice cream. After everyone went home, several heavy squalls with rain, lightning, high winds came through during the night and nicely washed down the boats.
4-5Apr 2008 Big Majors Spot / Staniel Cay
Friday. Weighed anchor at midday for the short and leisurely sail to Big Majors Spot.
I invited the crews of Jubilee and Kwitcherbitchen over for a pasta dinner as a farewell because it is time for Onward to begin the journey back to the US as the weather windows allow. I waited all day for the wind to die down so that I could take down the bimini and sew a leatherwear patch on the leading edge where the SS frame supports it. A while back the topping lift got snagged on the flag halyard on the backstay. It came loose slowly without my knowledge and let the boom rub on the bimini. Hence the need for a wear patch to prevent chafe in the future. Of course, the wind died about an hour and a half before my guests were to arrive. But I got the sewing done and Kelly anchored nearby just in time to help me put it back together. The dinner was great and we had a grand time. I will really miss this group as I continue the cruise but I’ve made good friends for the long term and we will see each other in the future.
6 Apr 2008 Big Majors to Bell Island.
I took a leisurely sail to anchor for the night at Bell Island -- a run / very broad reach under genoa alone. Jubilee and Kwitcherbitchen went the shallow water route into Cambridge Cay about a 1.25 nm away. I spent much of the day plotting up courses that will take me back to Nassau and beyond to the US.
7 Apr 2008 Bell Island to Waderick Wells
8 Apr 2008 Waderick Wells
9 Apr 2008 Waderick Wells to Norman Cay
Came to Normans so I could go to McDuffs for beers and a cheesburger. Had a time getting onto the beach due to the swell and rough beach. Actually got myself knocked out of the dinghy for the first time. But the water was shallow and I got ashore soaking wet. No one in the bar paid any attention to a dripping sailor coming in for lunch!
Reviewed the weather and decided the window was right to make a bee line for the US over the next 3 days.
Jubilee and Kwitcherbithen were to follow me up to Normans but the apparently got delayed at Waderich where they were going to scuba dive to assist in the installation of additional moorings: yea team!
10 Apr 2008 Norman Cay to Nassau
Followed a course that did a dogleg to the W around the W end of the Yellow Bank with its coral heads. I wanted no repeat of the stressful crossing from Nassau to Highbourn in January. It worked great. Never saw a head or less than ~15’ of water. A broad reach most of the way until the last leg which was a port tack up to Nassau harbor. No room at the marina so I anchored out off the beach on Paradise Island. I was happy not to have to go through the hassel to rig the boat to go into a slip. For the first time I did not get a perfect anchor set with the Manso on first try. Jubilee had warned me that the bottom was scoured and would not hold an anchor until you found a sweet spot in the sand. I found it on the 3rd try and all was well.
11 Apr 2008 Nassau to Bahama Banks
An early start: left the harbor at 0615. Motorsailed with genoa on a broad starboard reach. Averaged close to 8 kts for 13 hrs. I anchored out on the banks in 25’ of water ~45 min after sundown. Not a bad night but wind kicked up and about every 7 or 8 waves a crazy couple would come along and flip me up in my bed. I was so tired this was not a bother.
12 Apr 2008 Bahama Banks to Lake Worth
Motor sailed under genoa on a broad port reach. Averaged > 8 kts. Uneventful crossing of the Stream – the best kind!
Anchored in North Lake Worth. Called DHS and checked in with Customs & Immigration using the Local Boaters Option – very simple and hassle free. Great to be able to call family on my cell phone again. This is the thing I missed most.
13 Apr 2008 Lake Worth to Vero Beach
Got my ICW hat on and made quick time through the bridges up the Vero Beach to spend a couple of days working on my income tax returns – Oh Joy!
Treated myself to dinner at the Riverside Café on the ICW just below the marina. Had a “normal” American meal and realized that it was 3 times what I had gotten used to eating in the Bahamas. A challenge to try not to revert to US habits.
14-15 Apr 2008 Vero Beach
Monday. All day working on tax returns. Could be worse: I could be ashore in the cold doing this. Did enough to decide to just get an extension so I have time to check things over.
Tuesday. Rented a car to run errands. Mailed tax extension form and then off to shop till I dropped – almost literally: Marine Liquidators; West Marine; Sams Club; Home Depot; Bed Bath & Beyond; Office Depot; 3 used book stores looking for Patrick O’Brien books; 3 autoparts stores looking in vain for a fan belt tensioning tool; Helseth Marine; Radio Shack; West Marine #2; Publix. I also indulged my craving for an Outback steak dinner. I was beat by the time I got everything back to the boat. I had just enough energy to talk to Kelly who is now in Nassau.
Wednesday. Plan was to turn in the car and leave to head north. When I got back to the marina, the wind was increasing and was up to >15 kts by the time I was aboard. It continued to increase to 25 kts so I elected to stay until I could safely maneuver Onward off the raft and up to the fuel dock.