Onward’s Cruise Journal 2011
Cruise in the Bahamas

January 2011

A Note About Onward's Journals:
I started this website and the journals so my three children, my sister, and my sister-in-law could keep track of me and not lose sleep worrying about how I was doing or where I was. As it turns out some 3+ years later, the intended readers almost never visit the site. The site and journals have evolved into a personal record of my journeys — as, yes, in the cruising life one tends to lose track of days and events in a blur of similar but interestingly different days.

While I've missed the mark with my original intended readers, I've been pleasantly astounded to learn of the new and old friends, former colleagues, and passing acquaintances who tell me they actually read this. [Memo to self: be more careful with what I say.] I write these journals when I get the time and energy — not necessarily in sequence and often to capture the larger picture before going back to fill in and correct — which I sometimes don't get around to. For those of you who are college English majors or are closet editors, you will note that, with you in mind, I've included much fodder for your mills. ...Joe

Correction: My sister tells me she reads my journal but just doesn't tell me.

1 Jan 11; Saturday; New Year's Day

  • I celebrated the dawning of the new year by having the Moondances join Chris and Michael for breakfast aboard as I introduced them to Onward Omelets. We had a lazy morning chatting over breakfast before we headed off to Staniel Cay for a walk around and to take photos for Chris's website.
  • We learned that during the New Year's Eve festivities while everyone was focused elsewhere, thieves came in and cut out a 30' Contender with dual high horsepower outboards from its pier. I had met the daughter of the owner on Thursday night as I was eating my buffet dinner while sitting on the edge of the SCYC pier — very nice people who own a home here.
  • Chris Parker is as close as one gets to a rock star in the cruising world so it was an interesting experience to have a continuous stream of cruisers come up to say hello. The, greeting, walking, and photo ops prepared us to return to the SCYC bar's porch where we had lunch — more of their well-rated (by Skip) bacon cheeseburgers.

2 Jan 11; Sunday; Staniel Cay to Black Point
  • After a relaxing breakfast, I took Chris and Michael to the airport and watched until their plane disappeared on its flight back to the US through Nassau. I then returned to Onward and quickly raised anchor and set off for Black Point following Moondance.

Onward with Chris & Michael Circling in the Breeze

  • After settling in at Black Point we went ashore to put some water in my jerry cans. I still have almost 2 weeks of water aboard but decided to take on some backup as I never know if I'm going to be able to put into Staniel Cay for a refill on the way back. I will have to do this before Joseph and Amie arrive on the 14th.
  • This year I promised myself that I would not spend my time while walking the beaches searching through beach wrack for sea beans. Instead I was going to focus on drinking in the beauty. However, Harriet has gotten into making jewelry from sea glass. As I've asked her to make a piece for my daughters, I now find myself helping her search the tide edge for sea glass. Today, we found a good section of beach that hadn't been picked over by other cruisers and got some nice pieces. Then Harriet did it to me again: we were standing next to each other on a line of beach wrack and I bent over to pick up a piece of beach glass and Harriet immediately nabbed a sea beam not a foot away — the only one we found. She does this regularly, snookers me out of a sea bean while standing next to me. This is one of the reasons I've decided to stop looking as I obviously can't compete.
  • The long walk required a nap when I got back aboard Onward. The walk also worked up an appetite so I made angel hair pasta with pesto, pine nuts, and bacon. The moondancers brought a rum drink and salad. A good time was had by all. We then sat around my iPad working on the toughest crossword puzzle I've yet encountered.

3 Jan 11; Monday;

  • I spent the morning getting ready to do laundry and then took off in the dinghy to explore. I found 3 secluded beaches on the N side of the bay and I went ashore in a nice private cove to sun, read, and snorkel. After lunch, it was off to the laundry to get 3 loads done. I also got a much needed haircut from Ida. We finished up the day with dinner at Lorraine's Cafe. It's good to come here and be greeted like an old friend — one of the things I enjoy about the Bahamas.

4 Jan 11; Tuesday; Black Point to Staniel Cay
  • After a quick trip ashore to shop for what fresh vegetables were available, Onward and Moondance moved back N to Staniel Cay to hit the stores there. We learned that the mailboat will be delayed arriving at both Staniel Cay and Black Point because of the effect of New Years on their schedule. The pickings were slim but by visiting all 3 stores we got some useful items for ourselves and Lady of Loren.
  • Harriet and I took advantage of the low slack tide to take the dinghy over to Thunderball Grotto to snorkel. There seemed to be more fish than in the past and it was neat swimming among them. I gave Harriet some granola and she found that they loved it. The most amazing thing about the Grotto is its dome shape with openings to the sky. While looking at this I had an ah-ha about how structures like this are formed through out the cays.

5 jan 11; Wednesday; Staniel Cay to Warderick Wells Cay
  • After listening to the weather, Onward and Moondance headed N toward Warderick Wells. We were not sure if our place on the waiting list for a mooring in the N anchorage would yield moorings where we could weather the coming cold front. We had alternatives at Compass and Cambridge Cays that we could peel off for if the 0900 ECLPS VHF broadcast didn't yield us moorings. We were in luck and both got spots in the N anchorage so we pressed on. It was an absolutely beautiful day with clear sky, warm temperature, and light NE winds. When I went into the anchorage I found Mike and Angie from Lady of Lorien waiting at the mooring to hand up the pennant. Nice!
  • After settling in, I put the dinghy down and delivered the groceries I'd managed to find for Angie. I was rewarded by receiving the CO2 cylinders for the SodaMachine that had been sent to the wrong location before I left the US.
  • After lunch, I took the dinghy over to Paradise Beach to sun, read, and snorkel. The cruisers in the anchorage arranged a cocktail party ashore at 1600. We followed that up with a reunion cookout dinner aboard Onward. A good day!

6 Jan 11; Thursday
  • I spent the morning working on projects then headed off with the LoLs and Moondances for a short hike and a beach picnic. I used my swim fins the previous 3 days and today my legs let me know that I hadn't used some muscles in a long time. I spent the afternoon reading in the cockpit a great novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafone, The Shadow of the Wind, with lyrical prose and a plot with many twists. Angie prepared a fantastic meal of pot roast using Guinness which results in a fantastic gravy. Delish! I even managed to win a round of Farkle.
  • After returning to Onward, the winds began to build for the coming cold front. At 0200 I woke up to the sound of an approaching thunder squall — an unusual event in the Bahamas. About an hour later the squall arrived and Onward was knocked well over by the leading gust. I got up and watched the anemometer spool up to > 50 kts before it stopped giving readings. The worst was over in < 15 min but strong winds continued all night. I had my first nightmare about Onward reacting to a storm while on a mooring — a response to the outside activity I guess. I kept waking up and looking forward to daybreak when at least I could see what was going on.

7Jan 11; Friday;
  • The winds died down to < 25 as the sun rose and blue sky appeared. I was glad to have that past. I spent the day working on tasks using my timer technique that is proving to be very effective. I worked in a hike in the afternoon to get some exercise. In the evening, Harriet made some of her chicken souse which has become a favorite. Delish!

8 Jan 11; Saturday
  • Today was my birthday; I've survived to see another! Great!
  • I decided to throw a birthday party to celebrate. I started it off by making some rosemary olive oil bread using my new loaf technique. As an experiment, I added chopped green olives, prosciutto, and cheese to one loaf. I then whipped up a batch of sausage, peppers, onions, and zucchini. To top this off by serving with piccolini pasta. Skip & Harriet Hardy, Mike & Angie Williams, and Melanie Cookson joined me for the party. Skip brought some of his great Manhattans to help start the festivities. The olive loaf experiment worked well!

Angie, Skip, Mike, Melanie, Joe (Harriet at the Camera)

9 Jan 11; Sunday

  • Today was a picture-perfect day with very light winds and a cloudless sky. Onward's steward said he needed an easy morning after working so hard preparing for my birthday celebration. But, in spite of a late start he had the pile of dishes and pans cleaned up by 1000. This was just in time to prepare a picnic lunch for me to join the LoLs and Moondances for a dinghy trip to another secluded beach with good snorkeling. We had a great picnic lunch and did some snorkeling around the small reef off the beach. We also got to watch a large white heron ignore us as he stalked some prey on the little cay's scrub brush. This cay is one of the most unique I've seen in the Bahamas because the rocks preserve the impression of the root system of what must have been a stand of huge trees. An amazing network of bowls and interpenetrating filigree of roots. I added to my recordings of "the music of the rocks" by attempting to capture the deep rumbles of a cave / blowhole that has almost eaten its way across the cay. I stayed on another hour after the others returned to their boats to nap; I worked on my tan and swam. I gave myself the rest of the day off to read in the cockpit.

10 Jan 11; Monday
  • Another beautiful Bahamas day, sunny with light winds. I worked on my task list until I was enticed to go off on a picnic hike. On the way back, we stopped off to say hello to Park Warden, Henry. He and a few others took advantage of the great weather yesterday to go over to Eleuthera near Cape Eleuthera where they had spectacular success fishing. Henry decided he needed to share some of his success with Skip and I. Harriet then had the great idea of getting Angie who we regard as the fleet's supreme fish chef, to use our fresh fish to prepare dinner. I gave Harriet my share of fresh tuna for her to make sashimi. While the chefs worked, I whiled away the afternoon reading in the cockpit. I then joined the fleet aboard LoL for cocktails and a fantastic dinner followed.

11 Jan 11; Tuesday
  • Another beautiful Bahamas day. In the afternoon I picked up Melanie and joined the LoLs and Moondances on the beach near Emerald Rock for an afternoon of swimming and sunning. Melanie and I returned to Onward for cocktails and then were invited aboard Moondance for some of Harriet's great brisket. Delish!

12 Jan 11; Wednesday
  • I woke up this morning and found myself in a blue funk — a, thank God, very unusual occurrence. I had no idea why. I couldn't get myself motivated to do much. I gave up and finished one book and then started another. Not a productive day. I finally managed to get myself to clean up the residual mess from the engine oil change and got all the stuff stowed in the stern locker.
  • Chris, the young deputy warden of the Park, had a birthday today and Henry, the warden, and his pals threw him a dinner: ribs, chicken, macaroni & cheese - Delish. As a kid I never liked macaroni and cheese but the Bahamians make such a delicious variation that it totally changed my view. Skip has to be watched or he will eat it all!

13 Jan 11; Thursday; Warderick Wells to Staniel Cay
  • Wind was NE @ 20+ kts all night. I got up and felt much better than I did yesterday. ??? I spent the morning getting Onward organized then went in to Park headquarters. Darcy had my plastic box and it had some beer=batter rolls in it. I told her I'd given the biscotti in it as a joke but she was pleased to return the favor.
  • I dropped the mooring just before noon and departed the anchorage. Winds were NE @ 15+ kts so I was able to sale S to Staniel Cay under genoa alone making > 7 kts. I anchored in my spot near Thunderball Grotto then went into town to do some shopping. The mailboat hadn't come in yet but I was able to pick up some vegetables for the fleet. I then settled in for a quiet night.
  • I was able to use the internet and downloaded a new app for my iPad that enables offline storage and viewing of websites so I can now run my Bahamas Cruisers Guide website download on the iPad. Now I always have access to my Guide. Neat!

14 Jan 11; Friday; Staniel Cay to Warderick Wells
  • I was up early to prepare Onward to receive guests and to make dough for pizza. At 0900 I heard the Watermakers Air pilot calling in on approach so I took the dinghy into Isles General Store pier and met Joe and Amie at the airstrip just after they deplaned. The mailboat arrived overnight so it was a good time to revisit Isles on the way to the dinghy to pick up fresh vegetables. We then headed back to Onward where we brought up the dinghy as soon as it was unloaded. Then it was anchors aweigh and Onward was off to the Emerald Rock area of Warderick Wells. It was almost low tide so Onward did a bit of bottom plowing on the way out as the wind was still NE @ 15+ kts. We were sailing under genoa alone and even though the depth sounder indicated we had a few tenths of a foot clearance, the slight heel to port occasionally dug in the port wing of the keel and we felt a slight stutter in our progress. This lasted a couple of minutes and then we were free. We had a great sail N under the genoa averaging > 7 kts. As soon as we were on a stable course, I played short-order cook and made Amie & Joe breakfast sandwiches and wraps.
  • When we arrived at Emerald Rock, what I thought would be a straightforward pickup of the mooring pennant turned out to be a real challenge. First, I twisted my back while handling the very heavy garbage bag I had agreed to take to Staniel for Lady of Lorien, and the one from Moondance wasn't much lighter. So, I was moving a bit slowly while moving to the foredeck on the first approach. As a result the pennant was just 4" out of reach when a gust from hell blew the bow to port. In the ensuing turn to Stbd, Onward got hit by another gust which heeled us over to Stbd. The latch of the microwave chose this moment to let go spilling the coffee pot with some residual morning coffee along with the glass rotating platform. The coffee pot proceeded to throw its contents everywhere but did not break while the glass platform smashed with glass everywhere. At this time, Mike Williams who had been watching Onward's approach from one of the hills on Warderick Wells decided to call me on the VHF for some standard harassment.
  • Well, the pennant finally got brought aboard and I relaxed for a while before I tackled the cleanup. Joe & Amie went for a swim but it soon clouded over putting an end to that. We all sat around and relaxed and then I cleaned up before declaring cocktail hour.
  • Joe's company provided all its sales arm with iPads so we now have 3 iPads aboard: mine, Joe's original, and the new one; 3 iPads, 3 people, no fighting!
  • After cocktail hour, I made basil — rosemary angel hair pasta to which I added some sauteed sausage, capers, olives, and garlic in olive oil. Delish. We decided to watch a movie and since I so seldom use the DVD player when I'm by myself it took me a while to get it going. We watched The Illusionist - a great movie that had me going to the end.

15 Jan 11; Saturday
  • A busy day. I got the steward on task to clean up after last night's dinner. Then I made a second batch of pizza dough in case the number of guests increased. After breakfast, I took Joe & Amie for a tour of the anchorage by dinghy and then to the reefs off Emerald Rock where they did some snorkeling. We then visited one of the southern beaches on Warderick Wells Cay and took a little hike inland. We then returned to Onward and I dropped the mooring and moved on to the N anchorage. I made some Onward chicken salad and we had lunch underway. The Park had initially told me I would be able to move on to mooring 17 near the headquarters building but I learned the vessel using it changed plans and decided to stay. The only N mooring that could accommodate Onward was one of the 3 outer moorings that are subject to swells sneaking in from the cut. I decided to take this as it was closer than Emerald Rock and would make it easier for the logistics of my planned pizza party. Joe had his heart set on watching the Ravens NFL game and I made arrangements for him to do this with the Park wardens who were also going to watch it.
  • After picking up the N mooring, we climbed in the dinghy and I took them to one of my secluded beaches with a great snorkeling area. While they swam, I stayed with the dinghy and caught some rays. I then took them to one of the reefs near the Park office where Joe got to see the huge lobster in residence there. Next I took them to see Paradise beach before heading in to the Park Office. We then met Harriet, Angie, Mike, and Melanie and I got to introduce them to Joe & Amie. Melanie then joined us for a hike to Boo Boo Hill and the blow holes. We returned to Onward where I started to make the pizzas while they cleaned up. We then went ashore to watch the game. I left them to watch while I returned to Onward to bake the pizzas. When they were done, I cut them in half, wrapped them in foil and put them in a beach bag to go ashore.
  • We had a great pizza party with the wardens and members of the Bahamas Defense Force who were watching the game. Sadly the Moondances and LoLs decided not to come ashore and so missed the fun. Unfortunately my return with pizza and wine also coincided with the things going south for the Ravens - but other than that, a good time was had by all.

16 Jan 11; Sunday; Warderick Wells to Shroud & Normans Cays

  • I made up care packages of the fresh produce I was able to buy at Staniel Cay and brought it over to Moondance so Harriet could share it out with Lady of Lorien. Moondance decided to opt out of the trip up to Normans Cay whee I had hoped to get Skip to rate MacDuff's cheeseburgers. InsteaD they decided to run S to Black Point with LoL for laundry because of the possibility of facing winds from the S on the return from Normans.
  • I invited Melanie Cookson to sail with us so I picked her up at the pier and Onward was underway before 1000. The wind was NE @ ~15 kts so we had a nice close reach up the banks under genoa alone. We anchored just outside of the moorings where I had anchored 2 years ago and took the dinghy in to explore the mangrove areas. Unfortunately it was low tide so we couldn't get into the mangrove lined streams. I took the dinghy N to look into the northern inlet that crosses the cay but gave up on that because of swells coming around the point. So, we weighed anchor and headed off to Normans.
  • I anchored Onward off the beach at MacDuffs's and we climbed in the dinghy and took it around to the E side of the cay where Joe and Amie went snorkeling around the remnants of the crashed DC3 drug runner aircraft. Their inspection was complicated by a barracuda who had decided the right wing was his territory.
  • I made reservations for dinner at MacDuff's so we cleaned up a bit and departed for cocktail hour ashore. We were prepared for a wet landing on the beach but that proved not to be the case. We sat on the porch of MacDuff's sipping Goombay Smashes and watching a beautiful sunset. It turns out we were the only guests at the restaurant. So we had great food and great service. We all had lightly blackened Mahi and caesar salads. We were again fortunate to have a dry dinghy ride back to Onward.

17 Jan 11; Monday; Normans Cay to Staniel Cay
  • I was up at 0500 and had Onward underway by 0540 heading back to Staniel Cay. The wind had clocked around to the SE so we were able to motorsail under the genoa only for the first third of the trip. We made great time on the trip back and anchored off Thunderball Grotto at 1130. Joe and Amie took the dinghy to the grotto for some snorkeling. They then headed out to Big Major's to check out the pigs on the beach — only one was in evidence today.
  • After cleaning up a bit, we headed off to Staniel Cay Yacht Club for lunch. We found that the kitchen was closed for the day so we took a walk down the beach to try one of the new places that have opened this year, the Taste and Sea restaurant next to the public beach. There we had cold Kalicks and great cheeseburgers on large fresh sesame seed buns. As Joe and Amie have found that eating cheeseburgers in paradise is hard work, we all retired to Onward for afternoon naps.
  • I was awaken from my nap by the VHF where a voice I recognized as that of the Bahamian dock master at SCYC saying: "Stop, the reef is ahead". That caused me stir enough to get my eyes over the combing to look over at the SCYC pier where I saw a ~60' Nordhaven trawler heading for the reef that parallels the pier. I thought that boat must have enough electronics aboard that it is aware of the danger -- so I put my head down again. I then heard another VHF transmission from the dock master and I became alert and remembered that it took me a couple of years before I learned to understand his quick and very clipped patois. I looked out again and saw the trawler dangerously close to the reef so I grabbed the VHF and said: "Trawler approaching the Yacht Club turn hard to port immediately you are about to go on the reef." Less than 10 sec. later the vessel grounded hard. It took a lot of struggling and the help of two tenders pushing on the bow to get it off the reef. It then managed to move past the pier and disappeared from my view toward Hard Rock Cut.
  • A few minutes passed and I heard a boat calling Thunderball Marina a couple of times. As there was no response, I got on the VHF to tell them the place was not open. The vessel then said it was severely disabled with no hydraulics as it had lost all the fluid and it needed a place to tie up to assess damage. I then realized I was talking to the vessel that just grounded. At this time, Jake who runs Staniel Cay Divers came on to assist. He arranged for it to tie up to the SCYC's N pier face dock. It did this with the help of 2 tenders and a loud "thunk".
  • We had a light dinner of salad and then a rollicking game of Farkle. Amie got really into the game and her energy must have influenced the die as she left us all far behind.

18 Jan 11; Tuesday; Staniel Cay to Black Point
  • I ferried Joe & Amie in to the airport by dinghy and they took the 0930 flight back to Ft. Lauderdale. I returned to Onward and Melanie and I weighed anchor and headed off to Black Point. It was a lovely day and the transit was quick. Once anchored, we went ashore with a huge bag of laundry — the result of having guests aboard. Melanie gave me a hand with the laundry -- a luxury I'm not used to. We spent the time waiting for the clothes to wash & dry to do some shopping at Adderley's and then walk around the settlement.
  • We walked by the "Garden of Eden". This is a home where the husband, Willie, has gathered various pieces of driftwood and arranged them as a sculpture garden. I had walked by the Garden many times in the past years but had never really walked through. This time Melanie was interested so we began wandering the paths through the "sculptures". Betty, the wife, happened to come out of the house and beckoned Melanie to come up to look at the garden and I followed. What we found was magical. Betty and Willie had planted tropical plants from all over in small "pot gardens" in their side and back yard — a veritable miniature botanical garden. "Pot Gardens" are literally small holes in the rocky terrain with a bit of soil inside. Miraculously, out-islanders have found a way to grow plants in these tiny spaces. We got to see trees and plants we had never seen before: tamarind, papaya, banana, noni, sweet potato, sugar cane, mango, aloe, pigeon peas, prickly pear, guava.
  • We gathered up the clean laundry and headed back to Onward where we cooled off with a wonderful swim off the stern and then an outdoor shower to cleanse the salt off. We then went ashore for dinner at Lorraine's Cafe before returning to Onward.
  • Melanie and I then sat around for a long time in the cockpit and did a lot of talking. We had met only a short time ago, in mid-December, and we had both felt a strong attraction for each other. The more time we spent together since then and especially during the visit of Joe and Amie, and today, the more this attraction increased. It is something that I've read about but had never experienced. Neat! It was a natural transition to decide to continue our sailing together.
  • When we finally got tired of talking we made the bed — a task that is usually done by me alone. There is nothing like the smell and sensation of fresh, clean sheets on a cruising boat. Bliss.

19 Jan 11; Wednesday; Black Point to Sampson Cay
  • As often happens, we found a batch of towels that had escaped yesterday's sweep up of laundry. So at 0800 we headed off to do another load of laundry and took advantage of the waiting time so I could show Melanie the blow hole and the beach on sound. I was just explaining to her that the blow holes probably wouldn't be much because it was a quiet day when a huge blast of air leaped 15' out of the hole only to be followed by a geyser of water. Neat! We took a brief look at the beach before collecting the laundry. After depositing it aboard Onward I took Melanie for a dingy ride to explore the secluded inlet on the very NW tip of the cay. It a beautiful clear, sunny, warm day. We took the dinghy in to a tiny beach where we declared a CFZ, sunned, read, and swam in our private gigantic natural swimming pool. Magical.
  • After retuning to Onward, we weighed anchor and headed off to Sampson Cay where we found Moondance at anchor. We anchored in time for cocktail hour and invited the Moondances over for drinks and to grill dinner aboard.

20 Jan 11; Thursday; Sampson Cay to Cambridge Cay
  • In the morning, Moondance weighed anchor and headed off to Cambridge Cay while Melanie went ashore to do some food shopping at the Marina store. Onward then weighed anchor and headed off to Cambridge. This time I was careful not to be talking on the VHF at the place I grounded in 2009 when Merlin was following me. The transit of Bell Island was uneventful (Good!) and we picked up a mooring at Cambridge Cay. I usually do this by myself but now having Melanie to help, I gave her an FRS radio and command of the helm while I went up to handle the foredeck. The pickup went flawlessly. Skip gave Melanie the highest credit a cruiser can get: "That was boring to watch".

21 Jan 11; Friday; Cambridge Cay to Warderick Wells Cay to Cambridge Cay
  • A cold front was due on Saturday so we decided to take advantage of the calm conditions today to make a quick round trip to Warderick Wells so Melanie could retrieve the things she'd temporarily stored there. We motorsailed up the Sound and when we got to the N anchorage at Warderick we found it totally full so there was no place to tie up Onward for an hour to make the retrieval. I took Onward around to the Emerald Rock anchorage and picked up mooring E3. We then headed in in the dinghy to get her gear. The wind had picked up from the SSW so swells were building promising a wet return dinghy ride. I decided to take the bulk of the gear back by myself and come back for Melanie. I was offloading the first batch of gear which we had cleverly put into extra-heavy duty garbage bags, when a swell from hell pushed the dinghy away from the stern just as I was in mid-step. I managed to get the heavy bag safely onto the swim platform before I fell in up to my chest as I was thankfully still holding on to the davit falls. I was easily able to climb aboard using the stern ladder. Pissed and drenched, I stripped off all my soaking clothes and went on to complete the unloading while keeping an eye out for another rogue swell. After toweling off, I donned dry swim trunks and a t-shirt and headed back for Melanie. In the process of falling in, I lost one of my Crocs and I was a bit bummed over that. Somehow I got Melanie and her MacBook safely and dryly back and aboard Onward and we quickly headed back down the banks to Cambridge Cay where we picked up a mooring next to Moondance.
  • Melanie again took the wheel. The foredeck hand had not gotten the mooring bridle line rigged correctly so the perfect approach was wasted when he couldn't get the line free. The second approach took but it wasn't pretty. It just goes to prove: first class helmsmanship cannot make up for incompetence on the foredeck.
  • We later discovered one of the Crocs in the dinghy and one aboard Onward. Croc Crisis Averted!
  • The resident cruisers decided to have a cocktail hour on Mailbox Cay so we headed off there at 1630. Crews from about 7 - 9 boats showed up and a good nosh and gab fest followed.

22 Jan 11; Saturday
  • We spent the morning doing various chores aboard and then decided to get off the boats for a bit before the storm front hit. So, the Onwards and Moondances headed off for the beach and we hiked across the cay to Bell Rock and then up to the heights. We had taken a light picnic lunch which we ate gazing out over a perfectly calm Exuma Sound. We had just finished lunch when we began to see the Sound waters take on texture as the winds increased and we felt the first bits of rain. We headed back and were only half-way when it began to pour so we got a nice fresh water wash.
  • While at the cocktail hour on Mailbox Cay yesterday, I had noticed that previous cruisers had set up a table of sorts to hold the various appetizer dishes bought ashore. I kept worrying that I was going to shove a dish off the narrow and rickety surface when I went to sample a dish. So I decided I would look for lumber on the Sound side of the cay that could be made into a larger and more sturdy table. Today I found a 10' 2x6 and a 5' 2x4 that I hauled back to the Banks side of the cay where I could work on the table after the cold front passed tomorrow. The rain made the haul interesting.
  • On the dingy ride back, we noticed that Mary and her daughter, Meg, who had been rowing back to White Seal were having a hard time of it as the wind and chop increased. They asked us for a tow and did a great job of handling the process of getting us their painter and keeping it free from tangling in the outboard's prop. It made for an easy tow back to their boat.
  • When we got back aboard Onward, we did the cruising thing: put our wet clothes on the stern rails where the rain could continue to wash them while we toweled off and enjoyed being warm and dry.
  • After the squall line passed, Melanie and I decided the bottle of champagne that had been in the cooler since my birthday needed to be sampled. We worked together quite well to drain the bottle in short order. What a nice way to spend a squally afternoon.
  • The cold front came through in the middle of the night and the fight between the wind and the strong current to control the boat made for a bit of a bumpy night.

23 Jan 11; Sunday
  • A beautiful sunny Bahamas day. I baked two calzone and then a batch of pepper biscotti. Skip showed up with a gift of two scones and two biscotti that Harriet had baked. We decided to picnic ashore and it was decided by Melanie, Skip and Harriet that I would provide calzone slices for lunch.
  • I gathered up tools for the cocktail table construction and with the picnic basket we headed off for shore. We decided to have our lunch first and Melanie had just passed out the slices of calzone to all. I got busy for a minute mixing our green tea ToGo when I heard Melanie yell followed by Harriet. Bailey had snuck in and grabbed my calzone by the end and was making off down the beach. Melanie spotted him and Harriet tackled him and rescued my calzone unhurt. Bailey is so good and had never done something like this before. I couldn't be upset at his pirate antics.
  • After lunch, Skip and I cut the wood and assembled it into a 5' x 21" table top. One of the most amazing thing was the battery pack for my circular saw and drill held out and I had somehow managed to bring along all the critical things I needed for the job.
  • We finished up with a hike on the Sound side where I found another 2x6 plank to use as a seat at Mailbox Beach.
  • We grilled dinner aboard Moondance. Melanie taught me how to prepare and cook fish in a simple and easy process that delivers a delicious outcome. Delish. We introduced Melanie to Quiddler and somehow I managed to win the game against 3 strong players.

24 Jan 11; Monday
  • Today was overcast, an unusual event here. We had intended to bring the cocktail table out to Mailbox Beach but decided to put that off for a better day. I spent a good part of the morning catching up on my cruising journal as I had been distracted from my normal routine by the presence of another person aboard — and a beautiful female-type person at that.
  • In the late afternoon, Chris came by in his fishing boat and took Melanie and I with him to Sampson Cay where he needed to refuel. He as a nice new center-console fishing boat powered by twin 150-hp Yamahas. I have watched many of these zip around the Bahamas but had never been aboard one. What a trip! Zooming down the shallow-water route to Sampson at 35+ kts while listening to Chris' favorite music on the stereo was exhillerating -- a far different experience from the normal 6-kt journey I am used to. Neat!
  • We did some shopping at Sampson while Chris refueled and then had another stimulating ride on the return to Onward. Once back aboard, Skip and Harriet joined us for cocktails and dinner of grilled pork loin, mushroom rice, and salad. A fine time was had by all. We got on to the discussion of scotch and Skip, Chis, and I finished the last of my 15 year old Dahlwine single malt scotch.

25 Jan 11; Tuesday
  • We had expected another overcast day but were pleasantly surprised to be greeted with only a light scattering of clouds. We decided it was time to clean the cockpit. Working together with Melanie, a needs-to-be-done job actually became a pleasant activity with a sparkling outcome.
  • I contacted Skip & Harriet about moving the cocktail table this morning and we decided to pack a picnic lunch to have once the table had been moved. I also contacted the mooring field hosts, Dave & Beth on Grateful Attitude, who agreed to come along to help. We took the table along with another 2x6 plank for a seat out to Mailbox Cay. I built support pedestals for the table using pieces of flat beach rock and my long-dormant dry wall building skills honed in my teenage years. The result was a nice new venue for cruisers' cocktail hours. We followed this up with a nice picnic lunch on Blue-Hole Beach.
  • The day had warmed up enough that Melanie and I went back to Onward to pick up towels and then went back to sun and swim on a couple of private beaches. The first was on a small cay just S of Mailbox Beach which was remote enough to declare a CFZ for swimming and sunning. We found many juvenile Conch, 3 to 4" long, something I've rarely encountered. We dubbed this "Little Conch Beach". When the other folks left Blue Hole Beach, we moved there because it was sheltered from the SE wind and remote enough to be a CFZ.
  • Hot showers before cocktail hour invigorated us enough that, after a dinner of salad and the remaining penne pasta from my birthday party, we went over to Moondance to watch a movie.

26 Jan 11; Wednesday
  • During the early morning, the winds which had picked up to >25 kts at 0300 died out and we awoke to a still anchorage and the promise of a sunny and quiet day until the coming cold front passage in the evening. While eating breakfast in the cockpit, Melanie heard a strange noise and looked off the starboard stern to see a huge loggerhead turtle swimming by. We then watched its slow progress around the anchorage.
  • This morning I got to watch Melanie do her yoga routine on the foredeck. Maybe I'll get motivated to so some yoga myself...
  • Melanie and I worked on assembling a "must-have-at-the-beach bag" to keep aboard the dinghy for when we go beaching. At midday we packed a picnic lunch, gabbed wetsuit and snorkeling gear and climbed in the dinghy. We picked up Harriet and headed N to the "Aquarium" to snorkel. As we approached, the cloud cover increased enough so that we were deprived of bright sunlight. Melanie wore my wet suit so she could stay in the water longer with Harriet who also wore her shortie wetsuit. The reef was alive with fish and beautiful corals. Only bright sunlight could have made it better. I snorkeled for about 20 minutes before the chill set in and I then returned to the dinghy. When the women were ready to leave, we headed back S to a small beach on OBriens Cay where we enjoyed a CFZ, had lunch and walked around the interior sand flat.
  • We had expected today to not be very sunny as pre-frontal squall line was a potential threat. We lucked out and the afternoon was sunny so after returning Harriet to Moondance, I refilled the outboard tank and Melanie and I headed off for "Little Conch" CFZ beach to sun and swim.
  • After returning to Onward, Melanie showered and I napped before we headed over to Mailbox Beach where we had invited the other boats in the anchorage for a sundowner cocktail hour. We inaugurated the new cocktail table and also bid farewell to Dave and Beth of Grateful Attitudes who were completing their tour as mooring field hosts today. We experienced another beautiful sunset. The day was topped off with dinner aboard Onward with grilled chicken, rice and asparagus. Delish! We then got to watch a cloud lightning storm to the N where the frontal squall line had stalled.

27 Jan 11; Thursday;
  • Melanie got into a Zen state in the morning by donning her iPod headphones and polishing stainless steel on the deck. The results were sparkling to say the least.
  • In late morning, the crews of Moondance, Gigi's Island, and Victoria Gaye were joined by the Onwards and headed off for the SW tip of Cambridge Cay. Here we went snorkeling to see the extensive area of elkhorn coral. What I found most amazing was how this coral had built over the decades an extensive 3 dimensional matrix of stems that are 8 to 12" in diameter. This reef provides lots of places for fish to hide and we saw several huge Nassau Groupers hiding out. We had a light picnic lunch on the beach there. We then headed back to Onward to pick up towels before going back to Little Conch beach for some sun and a swim.
  • We topped off a great day with a fine dinner aboard Moondance. Skip started the festivities with Manhattans and then capped it off by playing his guitar. Neat!

28 Jan 11; Friday; Cambridge Cay to Compass Cay
  • It was partly cloudy in the morning and apparently some rain squalls came through during the night. Moondance and Onward decided to move to Compass Cay so I could have Skip rate the cheeseburgers. Lady of Lorien had completed their repairs of their outboard, refrigeration, and watermaker and planned to sail down the Sound and meet us at Conch Cut to the S of Cambridge Cay.
  • Vic from Gigi's Island gave Skip some waypoints for a course through the S entrance to the Cambridge mooring area that they had gotten from a previous mooring field host boat, Movin' On. Over the last two years, I had probed this area by dinghy taking depth readings and developing potential waypoints for use. There is one narrow and shallow area just W of the tip of Kissing Rock -- small cay at the S end of Cambridge Cay. Here the minimum depth was 6.5' While it looked like Onward would be able to make it through this way which is much more direct for heading S, I did not want to do it alone or without talking to another keel boat that had done the passage. Skip and I decided to take this route as we would have a rising tide.
  • Before departing the mooring, I went over to Down Time, the new mooring field host boat who was having problems with their outboard. I gave Roger a couple of new spark plugs but told him that I had had similar problems and the only way to fix it was to clean the fuel pump and carburetor jets. I also gave him a fine ware for cleaning the jets. He tried the new plugs which didn't cure the problem. He then cleaned the pump and carburetor and soon had the motor purring.
  • With Moondance leading, we departed the mooring field through the S channel. I followed a composite set of waypoints composed of those from Movin' On and my own. The passage was uneventful and Melanie recorded additional depth readings along the route.
  • Using the improved bathymetry data on my iPad version of the Navionics charts for the area, we decided to head into Compass Cay anchorage from the NW tip of the island through a narrow natural channel. I developed 3 waypoints from the iPad charts and this route proved to be quite good. Lady of Lorien met us at the beginning of this route and Onward led the 3 boats through to the anchorage. I touched bottom just at the entrance to the very narrow channel but easily backed off and moved a few feet E to deeper water.
  • After anchoring, we all dinghied in to Compass Cay Marina where we had great "Tuckerburgers", cheeseburgers grilled on the dock which we washed down with a couple of Kaliks. We then took a hike along the E crescent beach. This is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Bahamas.
  • The day's activities tired us out enough that we immediately fell asleep on returning to Onward and later woke up for a light dinner of soup. I've made Melanie a fan of Dr. Who so we watched an episode before sleep. As it turns out, her younger brother who is a professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins, is also a Dr. Who fan.

29 Jan 11; Saturday
  • The crews of the three boats were off early to hike Compass Cay. We decided to hike all the way to the N end of the Island to see Rachel's Bubble Baths -- a natural pool fed by waves from the Sound. It was a great morning for hiking with cool air, light wind and gentle sun. The long hike brought us to the baths. The tide was down so we didn't get to experience the bubble bath effect; however the pool was beautiful!. The hike back brought us to the marina just in time for lunch. On the way in, I had dropped off a package of pre-cooked bacon and cheese slices so we all enjoyed bacon and cheeseburgers.

30 Jan 11; Sunday
  • Tom and Chris from Polar Pacer showed up. Tom has agreed to help Tucker with some construction - including the building of the Tiki Bar. At midday we headed off in the dinghies to explore the Sound side coast of Tom's Cay. We landed on the banks side and hiked across a dry mangrove area to the Sound side. We found several pockets of great sea glass to harvest.
  • Lady of Lorien hosted Tom and Chris as well as the Moondances and Onwards for cocktails and light potluck supper. Tom's arrival was delayed a bit by his rescue of a sailboat that had gone up on a sandbank on the way into the anchorage. The couple aboard the 40' cutter were experienced cruisers but this was their first visit to the Bahamas. Somehow they had made a wrong turn out of the channel and onto a clearly visible sandbank. This must have flustered the woman who began to seek help via VHF. In the process she confused a power vessel attempting to call Staniel Cay for someone trying to help her. I stepped in by VHF to connect her up to Tucker and Tom at Sampson who eventually organized the rescue using 2 boats.

31 Jan 11; Monday; Compass Cay to Sampson Cay
  • After weather and breakfast, I used the Dremel router attachment to carve the Onward logo into the sign we planned to leave at Sampson Cay. When that was done, Melanie used Onward's store of nail polishes to decorate the sign. She also chose a selection of sea glass and shells to glue on. We then took the sign in to the marina where Melanie completed the gluing (courtesy of glue from Lady of Lorien). Tucker had Melanie select a place to hang it. So we left the sign in Tucker's hands and headed off.
  • We weighed anchor and headed off for Sampson Cay. After anchoring, I was a bit puzzled to see Lady of Lorien coming in behind me having departed Compass almost a hour before Onward. Moondance was nowhere to be seen. It turned out, Moondance was hiding behind a large yacht at the fuel pier and LoL had taken the long way around from the N entrance at Conch Cut because Mike hadn't discussed the more direct route with me.
  • We had lunch at the restaurant and then did some shopping at the store. Having had a large lunch, we had a light dinner. I got the series based on Horatio Hornblower on video from Mike. Melanie and I watched the first segment on the iPad. Based on how much we enjoyed the first segment, it will be great fun to watch the series.