Onward’s Cruise Journal 2011
Cruise in the Bahamas

February 2011

1 Feb 11; Tuesday; Sampson Cay

  • A beautiful day. We spent the morning aboard doing boat chores before going in to Sampson Cay Club's restaurant for lunch. It was the birthday of Ellen from La Belle Helene and the Onwards, Moondances, and LoLs joined the celebration lunch. Before lunch, we encountered Paul and Mary from Merry Sea who were also having lunch. Mary regaled us with a fun poem she had composed based on the names of the boats who were at Warderick Wells when we were all there. I thought it was great and she agreed to recite it for the birthday girl -- great fun.
  • After lunch, we headed back to Onward to change and get our beach gear then we headed off to a small sandy beach with a bit of privacy for a CFZ to spend a couple of hours sunning and swimming.
  • Onward hosted the Moondances and the LoLs for cocktails and a Quiddler tournament. Mike, whom everyone agreed had had the most to drink, having started by visiting another Brit boat before coming aboard Onward, won the last game in spectacular fashion demonstrating the ability of a lot of merlot to loosen up the brain (a lot of good cards also helped).

2 Feb 11; Wednesday; Sampson Cay to Staniel Cay
  • We weighed anchor and brought Onward into the pier at Sampson Cay Club to take on water. It was a pleasant experience to have Melanie on deck to assist with docking which went flawlessly. After taking on >100 gal of water, we departed and headed for Staniel Cay where we again anchored SW of Thunderball Grotto. This area is a bit tricky as there are sections where the bottom has been scoured by the tidal currents and will not give a good anchor set. But, a boat length away, the holding is excellent. Once anchored we hopped in the dinghy to go shopping and to get the propane tank filled. We found supplies to be good as the mailboat was in yesterday. We hit all 3 stores and topped up on fresh vegetables and olive oil.
  • It was a gorgeous sunny day. We spent a relaxing afternoon reading aboard before having Bill and Harriet from Miss Piggy over for cocktails.

3 Feb 11; Thursday; Staniel Cay to Little Farmers Cay
  • I found Onward's propane tank filled and waiting when we took the dinghy in to Isles General Store. In the process of hooking up the propane tank, I again became a victim of my autonomous put algorithm and as a result donated an adjustable wrench to the sandy bottom. Ah, well, someday I'll learn.
  • While just getting underway, we learned from Mike that LoL and Moondance were heading for Little Farmers Cay today, a day earlier than we had discussed, because the promised good weather should result in a crowded anchorage and being early would be better than later. We made the decision to skip Black Point as we had no pressing need to do laundry. It was another beautiful day and we motorsailed under genoa in ~15 kts. In the process we caught up with the other two boats and went in to anchor near where I had anchored 2 years ago. After getting settled, we were reading in the cockpit when a local boat came up and asked us to move a bit closer to shore to get further from the approach line to the airstrip. We immediately moved and after getting resettled, I was a bit puzzled to see LoL still in place. It was dead low tide and they had slid up on a slight knoll on the bottom and were now aground. An hour later they easily moved off and re-anchored.
  • Melanie decided to go for a swim off the stern. I at first declined to join her but after a short while of reading in the sun, I was ready to go. We had a nice cooling swim around Onward in the gentle current. We then showered on the stern — what a nice refreshing interlude.
  • Angie whipped up her culinary expertise to make a fantastic dinner of roast lamb and cous cous. Delish. Harriet was a bit subdued at the start but once she threw a hand of 5000 pts in the Farkle game she was again her animated self.

4 Feb 11; Friday
  • I made dough for pepper biscotti and calzones and then we took the dinghy ashore to check out the plans for the 5Fs (First Friday in February Farmers Cay Festival). We walked a long circumnavigation of the cay finishing up at the airport where Onward was visible just off the E side of the runway to the S. We then returned to Onward for an interlude.
  • We returned ashore to watch the finish of the first C Class Regatta race and enjoyed a Bahamian ribs & chicken barbecue lunch. The lunch and following Regatta race provided a great opportunity to socialize with Bahamians and cruisers -- both well-known friends and new. As Melanie and I were walking to the Little Farmers Yacht Club, a car stopped and asked us where we were going. It turned out to be the principal of the local school and his family. They had us hop in and graciously drove us to our destination. Along the way I told him I was carrying books and materials for the schools in George Town. He told us how much the schools had been helped by the SSCA program. I told him of an idea I had to include a wish list for local schools on the Bahamas Cruisers Guide website. He thought that was a good idea and agreed to work with me to set it up.
  • We were exhausted from all the walking we did; well, perhaps the sun and cold beers had something to do with it. We returned to Onward for a nice nap only to be awaked by the Moondances inviting us over for cocktails. Ah well, such hardships are just to be borne if you are a cruiser. Everyone was sated from our lunch so we just enjoyed Dark & Stormies and some snacks while Harriet again worked her magic with the dice to win spectacularly at Farkle. I'm sure she is somehow manipulating the dice in her open hand in milliseconds as she throws them -- I just can't seem to work out exactly how she's able to do this amazing feat -- can it really be just pure luck?

5 Feb 11; Saturday
  • I baked two calzones and a batch of pepper biscotti while making dough for pizza this evening. At mid-morning we took the dinghy over to the NW beach to watch the regatta and were able to get up close and personal for the finish of two races. We then took the dinghy to the E side to check out the festivities near Ocean Cabin. We met the principal again and joined in watching the Exumas Youth Marching Band. We followed this up with a cracked conch lunch before returning to Onward.
  • Moondance decided to move N to a beach N of White Pt on the W coast of Great Guana but I didn't feel like changing anchorages late in the day so Onward spent the night at Little Farmers Cay.
  • Melanie and I have come to really enjoy doing crossword puzzles on the iPad. We make a great team and can now tackle the toughest puzzles with confidence and without resort to external references. We marched quickly through 4 puzzles during cocktail hour. It seems I've also turned Melanie into a Dr. Who fan so we watched another episode on the iPad after a light dinner of salad.

6 Feb 11; Sunday; Little Farmers Cay to Black Point
  • The anchorage got a bit rolly during the pre-dawn hours. With the master stateroom in the stern, this is usually signaled by just a faint easy change in motion while sleeping. On waking, it is necessary to be aware of the boat's motion when moving around but this is usually easily adjusted to without the need for constantly grasping hand holds. Under conditions I barely notice in the C470, other boats leave the anchorage because of excess motion. Besides the intrinsic stability of Onward, it helps that neither Melanie nor I are at all motion sensitive.
  • We weighed anchor at 0830 and began a cruise N to a destination unknown. As we exited the anchorage the folks on Little Farmers Cay broadcast messages of thanks to all the cruisers who came in to support the 5Fs festival. Over 117 cruising boats were counted, close to a record set in the early 1990s.
  • We heard from the Moondances who had spent the night just N of White Point and they were on the way to Sampson Cay. As we moved N, Melanie and I worked at deciding where to go between: Black Point, Staniel Cay, Sampson Cay, and Compass Cay. Neither of us are avid football fans but Melanie enjoys the opportunity for social interaction as do I. We finally decided on Black Point one of the prime factors being the private lagoon we so enjoyed on the last visit. Soon after changing course, we heard from Polar Pacer that they were also headed there so we called and made plans to get together at one of the Super Bowl parties ashore. We also learned that tomorrow was Tom's birthday so we decided to invite them aboard Onward for a dinner to celebrate. Having done this, Melanie and I looked at each other and commented how this was one of the neatest parts of cruising -- the ad hoc social interactions.
  • After anchoring, we got busy on this-and-thats while we waited for the clouds to burn off to enable a beach day. We were rewarded by a clear sky and light winds so we took Venture, TT/Onward, over to our secluded swimming cove on the NE tip of the cay. We came in at high tide and our little beach was too small to sun on at the moment. We left the dingy anchored just off the little beach, donned our snorkeling gear and our skinsuits and swam off to inspect the sunken wreck in the center of the cove. I first discovered this wreck in 2008 or 2009 while walking in a remote area of the cay. It was apparently a Haitian fishing sloop that was scuttled in the cove. Now there is nothing visible at high tide as the sides of the hull have peeled off and are lying on the bottom. All the remaining parts of the boat are now covered with algae and sea grass forming an artificial reef which has been colonized by a variety of small reef fish. We then swam out to the mouth of the cove looking for the long, thin fish with bright blue and teal colors that I had found dozens of during my first visit earlier this year. To our disappointment we did not encounter any. As we swam back to Venture, a large tender began to enter the cove and we kept a wary eye out to be sure we were well out of its path as it came in to take a loop around the wreck. By the time we got back to our beach, the tender was gone and we spent another hour or so sunning on the beach and eating a light lunch.
  • After Venturing back to Onward we showered and then headed into town for the Super Bowl Party at Lorraine's Cafe. Tom and Chris had cleverly snagged a table by the door where we had the benefit of a breeze as the restaurant was filled with cruisers. Lorraine had her neighbor, Van Ferguson, come over with his guitar to play Bahamian music. Van's wife Agnes and Lorraine joined him in singing and a bit of dancing before the buffet began. Tom knew Van from his experience of racing on C Class sloops at George Town. When Van's wife, Agnes, heard that we were having Tom and Chris aboard Onward for a birthday dinner tomorrow, she said she would love to attend. It is unusual, for some reason, for Bahamians to want to come aboard a cruising boat so Melanie and Tom extended the invitation. Lorraine's buffet was something to behold as there was so much: peas & rice, potato salad, macaroni & cheese, meatballs, chicken, ribs, pasta salad, pork chops... Delish. We had a great time, seeing a number of cruisers previously encountered. As I am no longer an avid football follower, we headed back to Onward just as halftime was beginning so we could get out into the cool air and away from the din of the TV.

7 Feb 11; Monday
  • Laundry day! We were waiting at the door of Rockside Laundry at 0745 the first of what grew to be a line of cruisers with their laundry bags in tow. About 0815, Ida arrived and we loaded up 3 washing machines. This task is something I've always done by myself and it became almost fun doing it with Melanie. I got Ida to make another valiant effort to turn a toad into a prince by trimming my hair -- she did a good job of exorcising the toad but it was too much to ask regarding the prince.
  • While the laundry was in the driers, we walked over to Lorraine's Cafe where we found Lorraine and I asked her if she ever got to go home. I told her we had caught her singing and dancing with Van on video last night. They have recently had a DSL line installed by BTC and she was in the process of trying to hook up a new dual channel D-Link router to the DSL modem and asked for my help. Unfortunately the BTC installer hadn't left clear instructions about login and password for the modem. I managed to password protect administrator access to the router but couldn't work out the DSL modem connection. When connected to her laptop, it worked well but the connection set up specifics were hidden somewhere in the bowels of her $#@&&% Windows system and I couldn't find them to check the configuration.
  • We returned to Onward with nice clean and dry clothes. We discussed how the simple act of doing laundry in the cruising life was a major accomplishment for a day -- an amazing fact from the perspective of out former lives. After offloading the laundry, we headed off to the beach and decided to try out a small private beach on the S shore of he bay. We only stayed about an hour or so because the wind picked up from the S and the dinghy was getting bounced around by the small swells. After a short rest aboard Onward we headed back to town where I made another attempt at the DSL modem to no avail.
  • At 1730, Tom and Chris arrived to celebrate Tom's birthday and at 1800 I Ventured in to pick up Agnes and Van. Over drinks and a dinner of grilled broccoli and zucchini and breaded chicken cutlets, we had a grand time. Tom is a wonderful raconteur and I learned a lot about the history of racing in the Bahamas from Van. He told us that the Regattas began about 1954. The largest boats, A Class, were the boats used for fishing at long distance from their home ports. The B and C class were smaller boats used for visiting between the cays. Over the last 50 years, the C Class has grown for racing because they are easier to man and transport to races and cheaper to maintain. Van builds C Class boats and sells them. I had seen hulls under construction in his yard in previous years. He does this pretty much from his head having made a template of important lines using copper tubing -- then it's his eye and a good sense of balance and proportion abetting good workmanship. He has a C Class, "Smashee", that he races avidly and will be at the races in George Town. I asked him for the story behind the name. It seems years ago there was a wild west movie with a short-powerful character, the smallest guy in the gang who always seemed to start a bar brawl by smashing a chair. Van's young nephew called the character Smashee. Because of Van's similar physique, Van got tagged by family and friends as "Smashee". When it came time to enter one of his C Class boats for the first time in a race at Staniel Cay, he was asked for its name and one of his friends said that it was called "Smashee" and the name stuck. Van related that in the early days of racing it, it was so fast and powerful it was always smashing something: a mast, a rudder, etc. thus living up to its name. A fine time was had by all and I managed to get Van and Agnes back to shore in Venture while keeping us all dry.

8 Feb 11; Tuesday; Black Point to Sampson Cay
  • After breakfast we headed in to Lorraine's Cafe so Melanie could work on the internet and I could make and other go at trying to get her new dual channel router to talk to her new DSL modem. I tried several different approaches without success so I left Lorraine with the router pass word protected and two new channels working with passwords and notes on the problem I encountered. We then stopped by Adderley's for a bag of flour before Venturing back to Onward to weigh anchor. Winds were < 5kts and on the nose so we motored up to Sampson Cay and anchored before noon.
  • We decided to explore a secluded beach as a CFZ and packed a light picnic lunch. The beach and swimming were delightful. It will be hard to give up this kind of activity when it is time to go back to the mainland. We returned to Onward and organized the berth in the forward stateroom as a place for for naps and such when it was warm enough to make the great air flow in the forward stateroom an attraction.
  • We were just starting our cocktail hour when we learned of a $2 beer and $2 pizza special at Sampson Cay Club from Martha and Dave aboard the departing Antigone as she circled us.. We soon headed off for the bar where we were able to snag seats. There we met and had a good time talking with two other couples, Jim and Beth from To Life, a large motor yacht we had seen at Compass Cay and Joe and Jill from Baciare, a 62' motor yacht out of Washington DC.
  • We also met Carol Adams, one of two young women who are professional chefs and are gaining experience while traveling in the Bahamas on cruising yachts: Deep Sea Dishing.
  • I happened to see one of the men in the bar wearing a T-shirt that had an Army logo on it. I asked him what his connection to the Army was besides the T-shirt. He replied he was a retired CW3 and I told him I was a retired Army SES. It turns out he was well aware of ARL having worked at our network security center on special projects while I was there. It turns out I was talking to "Wireless Steve". He told me he had discovered the area in 2000 while still on active duty. He retired in 2007 and moved to Sampson Cay where he leases a home. He started a company to provide WiFi / internet services to the small cays not served by Batelco. He now provides the service at Warderick Wells, Bell I, Sampson Cay, and Staniel Cay as well as a number of small private cays. He has lots of opportunity to expand but can't find the Bahamian talent that he can train and then count on staying in the area vice running off to the US once trained. While chatting about this, I learned why Lorraine's router to DSL modem link was not working correctly - an IP address conflict. It's amazing how connections like this seem to happen while cruising.
  • We Ventured back to Onward and spent a lovely interlude on the foredeck enjoying the soft cool air under the amazing canopy of stars before we went below.

9 Feb 11; Wednesday
  • Where did the morning go? Melanie took me ashore and we took a long walk investigating the 5 or more beaches on the cay before we Ventured back. We packed a light lunch and then headed off to a small cay just NW of Sampson where there is a nice small sandy beach hidden away from the view of the anchorage so it made a nice CFZ. We swam and sunned, lunched and read. The water and air temperatures were exactly right - refreshing without being cold.
  • We considered going ashore to the restaurant for dinner but there were no specials today so we had a light dinner aboard, did a few crosswords, and sacked out early.

10 Feb 11; Thursday; Sampson Cay to Musha Cay
  • I took Onward in to the pier at Sampson Cay Club as soon as it opened and took on diesel, water and gas for the outboard. While there we found ourselves in luck as the stores shipment from Captain C had just arrived so we were able to get a few fresh vegetables. The computer system for the store crashed so it took literally 10 times longer than normal to check out. That done we headed back S without a clear destination in mind.
  • Along the way we talked to Moondance who were going to put into Black Point to do laundry. Skip's daughter had to cancel her visit because their dog was taken ill so they intended to head S to George Town at the first weather window which looked to be in the next 2 days. As Onward was ready to travel, I said I would meet them in Black Point. We really didn't need to do laundry but this would give us another chance to visit our private swimming cove. As we approached Black Point, Moondance informed us that they no longer were heading there. Apparently Lady of Lorien had decided to head back N from Staniel. We then decided to head as far S on the banks as we could today and then head out on the Sound to Great Exuma in the morning.
  • Galliot and Cave Cuts are the two most southerly cuts that can be reached from the banks by Onward with its 6.2' draft. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get the most recent Navionics chart chips for the Bahamas before departing the US so the version I currently have is still a bit of a black hole in the Galliot, Cave, and Musha Cays area. The Navionics charts I have on my iPad, however, are up to date and have detailed soundings for these areas. I placed waypoints on the iPad charts and then entered these waypoints into the E120 chart plotter. This process worked exceedingly well.
  • As Moondance was behind Onward, I led the way to the anchorage just W of Musha Cay. Apparently this cay was once owned by David Copperfield but is now a private resort with several huge homes for lease. The winds were SSW at ~10kts and the anchorage appeared rather open in that direction but there were shallow banks and small cays that prevented any chop or swells from forming. We anchored in 9' of water on a sandy bottom off one of the beaches that looked like a set from Gilligan's Island. We had a quiet night aboard in preparation for the trip tomorrow.

11 Feb 11; Friday; Musha Cay to Emerald Bay
  • Yesterday, at the suggestion of Harriet, we made reservations for a slip at the Emerald Bay Marina. This is part of a huge development that includes a set of huge condominiums, a golf course, and a resort. The latter was once operated by Four Seasons but the development fell on hard times in the recession and Sandals bought it out. I had been trying to visit the marina since 2008 but the conditions were never right when I was in the area. The entrance of the marina is oriented to the NE and a dogleg turn is required close to shore. This makes entry hazardous when there are strong winds out of the NE - so the marina does not permit entry under these conditions. But we were scheduled to be there before the NE winds started. The marina was offering a deal of $1/ft with $.50/gal RO water at the floating piers.
  • Melanie took advantage of the still wind and crystal clear water to go for a morning swim. I had to plea with her not to try to dive off the bow in the shallow water so she used the swim platform. At 0830, close to low slack tide, we departed Cave Cut and headed S. Of course, the wind was on the nose so it was a motor trip, We put into the marina at 1300 and found the most well constructed and appointed marina I've yet to find in the Bahamas. After touring around, we celebrated our arrival with a cocktail hour which I turned into a light meal by browning some pre-cooked chicken sausages and serving it with some frozen pasta with olive oil. Delish.

12 Feb 11; Saturday;
  • The day dawned beautifully clear and sunny - a prelude to the approaching front due in the evening. Being in a marina was an opportunity to get some boat tasks done. Melanie has become a cockpit-cleaning-fanatic so she had another go at that task and then vacuumed the boat while I defrosted the freezer. Melanie played amanuensis updating the freezer inventory sheet as I dictated the contents. After those tasks were done, it was time to make more pepper biscotti dough - my how the biscotti seem to fly out of the jar these days!
  • I have discovered that I have lost > 13 lbs since leaving Annapolis. Part of this is due to just being aboard Onward and away from frequent dinners at restaurants. However, a large part of this weight loss has been since Melanie came aboard and I began adapting to her eating habits which reflect lighter meals with more salad and vegetables. The down size is I discovered that I can no longer wear my boat shorts without a belt -- as I discovered to my surprise when they almost left me standing naked when they slipped down one afternoon walking ashore. -- not a bat thing to deal with.
  • We packed our beach bag and walked through the Grand Isles condominium development to the beach at the Sandals resort where we played in the water for awhile before heading back to the Grand Isles pool bar for a rum drink. While there, i met the chef and she told me they would be having a blacked tuna steak dinner special so we made the decision on the spot to return there for dinner.
  • As we showered before going to dinner, the front arrived and the winds climbed to NE @ 20-25 kts. The marina is well protected and the floating docks are some of the best I've seen. However, the wind was catching Onward on the stern and I started kicking myself for not repositioning it in the slip to have the bow into the winds. The slips are double wide with no central piling so this results in more boat motion as there is nothing to tie off the stern to on side opposite the floating pier.
  • We returned to the pool bar / restaurant at Grand Isles. Where we had a great meal of blackened tuna steaks. Delish. We ate under a thatch-roofed dining gazebo overlooking the pool. There used to be an indoor restaurant but that has given way to become an exercise room. The condo development is esthetically designed and well constructed with great attention to detail and quality work. The landscaping is lush and well maintained. After dinner we returned to Onward and made an early night of it, bouncing around in bed just a bit.

13 Feb 11; Sunday;
  • I spent the morning baking pepper biscotti and almond biscotti while updating this journal. It continued to blow ~NE @ 20 kts and Onward continued to dance a bit in the slip. After noon, we took a walk to look at the beach opposite our slip in the marina. As we walked out onto the NE point with the breakwater that protects the S side of the marina entrance, we noticed a 47' Catana catamaran, Worldwide Traveler, making its way into the marina. I took the opportunity to make a video of the event for the BCG. The cat surfed its way in and handled the dogleg turn with aplomb. I later met the captain and his wife and gave him a copy of the video. I told him he was a braver man than I was. We later helped him settle into a nearby slip. It seems the transmission on his port engine died just after he got into the marina. Chris from Legacy manned the cat's tender to act as a tug to make up for the missing engine.
  • While we were visiting the marina office, we noticed the owner of the large Lazzara motor yacht we had seen at Sampson Cay as we checked out of the store. I struck up conversation with him and got a lot of local information. It turns out he owns one of the villas at the Grand Isle Villa condominium development. The developer of this area had gone into receivership, the receiver was "less than honest", and as a result, the homeowners now own the property. Some 40 of the 72 villas have been sold to date. These villas are really well constructed. Emerald Bay Developers who had developed the resort formerly managed by Four Seasons and the marina had gone bankrupt and Sandals had bought the properties which had cost about $100M to build for only $22M -- nice deal! There is another large development on the N edge of the area where some "old English money" has dredged a long canal to create multi-million $ waterfront lots that have a yacht mooring in their "backyard". No homes have yet been built here.
  • Harriet had invited us over for dinner before the bouncing around began and was now not up to cooking below. So, I made some "Tex-Asian" chicken: precooked chicken for fajitas to which I added some soy sauce because Melanie likes that. With some red beans and rice and Harriet's salad so a grand dinner was had by all. Then our guests proceeded to skunk us in Farkle. What ever happened to old fashioned courtesy from guests??

14 Feb 11; Monday
  • We took a long walk around the marina and when we returned to the boats there was a hiatus in the winds as they had dropped to under 14 kts. I decided to move Onward to the pier opposite Moondance and turn it around so the bow would face the prevailing E winds. Sharing a slot with Moondance would allow us to cross tie lines to help keep both boats away from the piers thus reducing the interaction with the fenders. The moving turned out to be easier in theory than in practice. Due to the angle of the new pier and the angle of the wind, I couldn't get far enough away to build up sufficient way to get good control steerage in reverse. I had to come in at an angle to the pier with the bow into the wind. Then as I rotated the bow to port to make Onward parallel to the pier, the wind would grab the bow and start spinning me quickly to port - toward Moondance and its pier. The wind gusts were too strong for the bow thruster to overcome. On the 4th attempt, I finally got the physics worked out and we got Onward snugged into its new berth. This was only made possible by the fantastic dock line work of Harriet and Skip. Skip then gave the ultimate compliment by commenting that the difficult process was accomplished calmly and without any yelling or swearing. Now how did that happen???
  • We celebrated the accomplishment by heading over to Grand Isles Villas where we had their bacon cheeseburgers for lunch/dinner. We spent a nice afternoon sitting in the shade sipping cold beers and reading.

15 Feb 11; Tuesday
  • Melanie received a huge number of bites from no seeums on the weekend when the winds were down and had a rather severe reaction to them. I decided this was a good reason to make a better screen for the companionway hatch -- something I bought materials for some time ago but had never really needed it before. Of course, this meat digging out the sewing machine and stuff from the stern locker so Onward was a bit torn up. I took the opportunity to use the sewing machine to reinforce the seams of the new US flag Joseph brought me. I've found that adding additional stitching to the outer ~ 12" or so prolongs the life of the flag. Harriet again played Betsy Ross for Moondance's flag, repairing a failed seam between the stripes.
  • We finished up the day with a wonderful meal of ginger chicken aboard Moondance.

16 Feb 11; Wednesday
  • I rented a car today in order to get to the only pharmacy in the southern Bahamas to pick up a prescription. Getting a prescription filled while cruising here is a bit of a challenge but it can be done and it is a good thing to know how to do.
  • We decided to take advantage of the car to take a tour of Great and Small Exuma islands -- something I've not had a chance to do before. We drove to the very end of the road at the S tip of Little Exuma Island. Then we stopped just N of there to visit the ruins of The Hermitage, a large loyalist plantation built in the 1700s.

Tomb at the Hermitage Plantation Little Exuma.

Remains of a well-crafted fireplace one of the Hermitage Plantation out buildings.

  • I'm in the process of reading Robert Wilder's Wind from the Carolinas; a historical novel of the Bahamas from the time of the loyalist settlements in the 1700s. This has provided me with insights into the plantations which were built in the Bahamas in the image of the US southern plantations only to find that the soil could not sustain a viable plantation economy so they all fell to ruins with the freed slaves becoming a major component of the Bahamian populace.
  • Just before crossing back over the bridge from Little to Great Exuma, we came upon a local institution: Santana's -- a beachside restaurant run by a local fisherman and his wife. We had been following another rental car on the trek to the S tip of the island and at the turn around they told us they were on their way to this restaurant. So, we decided to stop too -- and a good decision it was. We had what the four of us agreed was the best meal we had ever eaten in the Bahamas. The specialty was fresh lobster tails that were deep fried and served with peas and rice and sauteed onions. The lobster tasted very light - I wouldn't have known it was fried if I hadn't been told. Delish! I told them that if they were located in George Town, they'd need wheelbarrows to cart away the $.

Santana's beachside restaurant at Little Exuma.

  • On the way back we stopped to view the beacon column built on a hill just N of Santana's. The Tuscan column had been built in the 1700's as a landmark beacon for ships calling at Little Exuma to pick up salt gathered from the local salt flats. Why Tuscan? No one knows.

Tuscan column erected as a beacon for ships that transported salt from Little Exuma.

  • We did some food shopping and then dropped the groceries back at the boats. We had worn out Harriet and Skip so Melanie and I continued our exploration of the N part of the island by ourselves. We drove to the N tip and the small settlement of Barraterre where we found friendly locals but no place open to stop and have a beer. We did see an amazing number of Class C racing boats for such a small settlement; six!

Two yellow C Class sloops at anchor.

One of 4 C Class sloops at the Barraterre boat yard.
  • On the return, we got to take photos of a fantastic golden sunset.

Sunset over the salt flats of NW Great Exuma.
  • We continued the exploration with a drive through Rolletown where we found a beachside restaurant and bar that is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. On the way back found we Big D's restaurant and bar on the waterfront. This place is known for its fresh conch so we stopped for a sample of conch fitters, cracked conch and cold beers before totin' some cracked conch back for the Moondancers.
  • a

  • Big D's.

17 Feb 11; Thursday

  • We forgot to take Melanie's immigration forms with us yesterday to get an extension to her original 90-day visa. So we headed S before 0800 to be at the immigration office before it opened. By 1000 we had gotten the extension, put gas in the rental car, and returned it to the marina.
  • The rest of the morning was spent sewing or preparing to sew. I shortened the two jack lines to adapt them to the new attachment points I now use on the toe rail instead of the former use of the deck cleats. This has freed up the base of the cleats and makes it easier to handle dock lines. I continued to work on the hatch screen project.
  • Melanie and I walked to the beach and spent a short time in the sun before the flies brought in by the low tide chased us away.
  • We made grilled flank steak for dinner. This is something I've not cooked before but Linda and Ron Draper love it and have served it to me at their home. On the last visit, Linda schooled me on how to marinade and prepare it. Served with Melanie's asian sauteed broccoli and salad -- Delish. Then Harriet and Melanie proceeded to clean the guys' clocks at Farkle. When I'm not around is Harriet teaching Melanie how to manipulate the dice?

18 Feb 11; Friday
  • Skip tripped on a spring line when departing last night as a gust of wind suddenly tensioned it. This morning he discovered his knee was swollen so he took the day to rest up before picking their guests up at the airport in the early evening.
  • The day was heavily overcast and several squall lines came through during the day and evening. It is always nice to get a free boat wash.
  • I spent the morning working on the companionway screen project but had to knock off for most of the day because of a headache - something I rarely experience. By the time cocktail hour rolled around I was feeling normal and Melanie and I joined the other cruisers for a cocktail party in the marina's lounge. As always we met many nice people and had a great time -- we were the last to leave the party.

19 Feb 11; Saturday;
  • This morning, after listening to the weather, I attacked the sewing of the companionway screen. This was one of those projects where the planning, engineering, design, and preparation time far exceeded the actual sewing time. Steve and Alice from Ocean Star came over with a sewing job. Their boom had worn through the bimini fabric and he needed to sew a reinforcing patch on it. With his help guiding the bulky canvas the job was quickly finished. I finished the day's sewing tasks by sewing tucks into the waistband of several pairs of Melanie's shorts -- unfortunately, now i can no longer look forward to the remote possibility of them just falling off.

20 Feb 11; Sunday
  • Today was a chore day. First came whipping up a batch of pepper biscotti dough followed by a batch of pizza dough. I then started out by completing my sewing chores. First I cut and sewed screens for the small overhead hatches for my stateroom. I have fit-in screens that mount from the inside for these like all my other Lewmar opening hatches, but it is so hard to reach them and then remove them to latch the hatch that I've never installed the screens. This time I used fiberglass screening that I sewed to enable a bungy-cord drawstring that fastens them taught over the outside of the hatches. Then I sewed another piece of screen to go over the top of the companionway when we need to have it open in buggy areas. I then completed the fabrication of the screen that will go where the hatch boards normally reside in the companionway hatch: I screwed the fiberglass screen I had sewn yesterday to the teak support struts. I now have a taught, well-fitting screen that can remain in place. The hatch slide can be opened and the screen stepped over when the bugs are a-wing.
  • I next decided to change the oil and filter for the generator. This is a task I face with trepidation in spite of the fact it can usually be done neatly in less than 45 min. I had neglected to write down the last oil change engine hours in my maintenance notes and I was afraid I was getting near the limit. First it was necessary to get all the stuff off the forward berth that I'd take out of the shower to get to the sewing machine. Once I was able to get under the berth and then open the cover of the Fischer-Panda, I discovered that clever me had written the engine hours and date of the last oil change on the new filter! It turns out I still had about another month of use before it need to be done so I checked the oil level (fine) and closed it up.
  • The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying the cool air and sunshine in the cockpit while reading and then stowing my oil change gear back in the stern locker. I then prepared to entertain in the evening by preparing two pizzas.
  • We had a boat full of people for the pizza party: Harriet and Skip and their friends Eva and Rick who flew in from MD for the weekend; Alice and Steve from Ocean Star; and Nathalie & Xavier from Rafale. I guess the pizzas were a hit because there was no leftovers. A lot of red wine and dark chocolate also disappeared. Delish! Good time!

21 Feb 11; Monday;
  • I was off to the laundry before 0600 only to find that all four washing machines were already in use and a woman from another boat was waiting for the first one free. I left my laundry bag in the cue and went back to Onward to get my coffee and an almond biscotti. I then returned to look at the news on my iPad while waiting. After loading a washer, I headed back and prepared a couple of trays of pepper biscotti. Once they were in the oven, I used the dough I had prepared ~10 days ago and then frozen to make a couple of calzones -- and experiment to see how frozen dough works. That done I ran back to the laundry and lucked out to find a drier that just completed its cycle. There is a God for cruisers.
  • We made our last foray to the grocery and liquor stores. Onward now has a good stock of Goslings Black Seal dark rum which is surprisingly hard to find in the Bahamas. After the hike back and forth to the stores which provided us some exercise, we stowed the goods and then headed off to the beach at Grand Isles. We found our friends on the beach and decided to go off for lunch at the pool bar where we enjoyed grouper fingers. Eva and Rick had a late afternoon flight back to MD so they went off with Skip and Harriet to prepare for departure while Melanie and I enjoyed a couple of hours on the beach.
  • Skip and Harriet came over after sunset and we sat and talked for a bit. They made the decision to head N back to the mid-Exumas tomorrow instead of going further S with us. I did my best to entice them into heading off to Conception Island with us but to no avail. I felt quite sad to break up the fleet after we had spent so much time together.

22 Feb 11; Tuesday; Emerald Bay, Great Exuma to Conception Island
  • We got Onward organized for departure and refilled the water tanks. After a poignant farewell to Harriet and Skip, we assisted Moondance in departing the pier. At 0830, Onward then followed them out through the quite entrance cut. Once in the Sound, Moondance headed N while Onward motorsailed on a course of 82º directly to West Bay on Conception Island. Our new friends Nathalie and Xavier on Rafale were just ahead of us and headed in the same general direction toward Rum Cay and thence to the DR. We were able to motorsail at close to 8 kts first under just the genoa and then also with the main until about noon when the winds died and shifted to the E.
  • The conditions were beautiful with gentle swells and that amazing cobalt blue water. At one point, two pods of dolphins appeared off of Onward's port quarter playing in the quarter wave. Before I could switch my camera to video mode, they were gone.
  • We anchored in the NW corner of West Bay about 1500. I launched the dinghy and put the swim ladder down so Melanie could take a dip. This activity resulted in visitors: a ~3.5' barracuda immediately appeared off the starboard stern watching us; this fellow was soon joined by a yellow tail tuna that was ~3' long. Occasionally, the barracuda would chase the tuna away but it would come right back and keep station just off to the right rear of the barracuda. This is the strangest grouping I've ever seen. Melanie, being rather fearless, dived off the bow and swam around Onward while being watched by the barracuda which was content to just hang off the stern and watch. Melanie soon named the fish: Barry and Tom.

23 Feb 11; Wednesday
  • I attempted to keep an SSB radio rendezvous with Moondance on 4054 at 0730. I heard Skip but he could not hear my replies. I may have problems with the SSB transmitter to antenna connection as there seems to be no power getting out. Later in the day I found the topping lift wrapped around the SSB antenna section of the backstay so I untangled it and hoped this would account for the problem.
  • At 0900, we headed off in the dinghy to explore the mangrove creeks in the interior of Conception. Along the way we stopped by to see Deb and Bob aboard Ancient Mariner whom we discovered in the anchorage this morning. We then spent several hours exploring the tidal creeks. Melanie had her first glimpse of the turtles here and was as amazed as I had been at how fast they moved in the water.
  • Along the way, we put ashore and then walked across a narrow spit of land to the Sound side. There we found Deb and Bob and their guests on the beach. I got into a weather discussion with Bob and Walt for a while before Melanie and I continued our exploration of the creeks. I then took her snorkeling along the mangrove edge of some of a deep pool where a myriad of reef fish of all different sizes hang out. Periodically, we would swim through huge clouds of small fry; the clouds varied in fry size from tiny to small. She agreed with me that it was a truly magical experience. We stopped to have a picnic lunch before returning to the anchorage.
  • After a brief return to Onward to pick up our beach books, we headed off to a small cay at the NW corner of the anchorage that was fairly remote from the other boats. There we declared a CFZ and enjoyed a few hours of sunning and reading with an interruption for a long skinsuit snorkeling exploration of the reefs in the surrounding area -- a really neat experience!
  • As we were Venturing back to Onward, we discovered Rafale anchored to Onward's stern but Nathalie and Xavier were off in their dinghy. They later showed up and came aboard for drinks. They had spent last night at Cape Santa Maria and then put on to Conception hoping to find Onward. We had a nice reunion. After they left, Melanie cooked a wonderful stir fried vegetable dinner served over brown rice. Delish!
  • Barry the barracuda and Tom the Tuna showed up again just before sunset to say hello. They were joined by a 4' nurse shark and then a 4' ray. It seemed all the local guys now had Onward on their must-visit list for the end of the Day.
  • After the beautiful sunset, Xavier called to entice us to stay another day at Conception so we could enjoy the pasta puttanesca he planed to cook Thursday night. After a barely a moment's thought, I just had to accept the offer.

24 Feb 11; Thursday
  • I again was unable to communicate with Moondance on SSB and I decided it was time to check the connection of the GTO cable from the antenna tuner to the backstay antenna. When I pulled off the cover, I found the contact areas were a bit corroded. I took the connection apart and took advantage of this to rerun the GTO cable up the outside of the enclosure instead of up the backstay. I the cleaned the backstay at the attachment point and exposed a fresh section of GTO cable to make the connection. Putting the waterproof "rescue tape" over the attachment was fun as always as it requires standing on the stern rail,holding on with one hand while trying to wrap the sticky tape around he backstay as the unruly cover strip of the tape whips about in the 15-kt wind. A joy. Now to try out the SSB in the morning to see if it made any difference.
  • After lunch we headed over the beach for a hike along the north shore of the island. We encountered Bob on shore and Deb and and their guests heading off to snorkel in the dinghy. I hadn't worn shoes that would enable hiking so I stayed behind while Melanie and Bob hiked further E along the shore. It got warm waiting in the hot sun so I declared a CFZ and went for a swim - first on the N shore and then in a small cove formed by a projection of rocks.
  • We were invited aboard Rafale for dinner. Natalie had asked for copies of Onward's recipes for no-knead bread, pepper biscotti, and calzones before we left Emerald Bay. We were greeted by a presentation of the two beautiful calzones she had baked that day. I was impressed. We talked more about baking baguettes and I realized she didn't have any silicon baking sheets. Now I purchased two new sheets before departing the US but had still been using my original, now well worn, sheets mostly out of sentimental reasons. I now decided that they would find a good home with Natalie and I Ventured back to Onward to fetch them along with a plastic cutting sheet which now have a good home aboard Rafale. We enjoyed a great pasta dinner, good wine, and great camaraderie. Xavier and Natalie tried to convince us to follow them S to the Caribbean but that wasn't in the cards.

25 Feb 11; Friday; Conception to George Town
  • Onward was underway at 0745 and a beautiful day with winds SW @ ~ 13-15 kts. After clearing the anchorage we were under sail alone and averaging > 7 kts SOG. Other than the winds getting a bit variable as we passed the N tip of Long Island, it was a fantastic day for a sail under a close reach where I did not have to touch the sails and let the autopilot handle the 35 nm journey.
  • Approaching the S entrance to Elizabeth Harbour, the view is always a bit daunting as there are usually spectacular breaking waves on the small cays just SE of the cut and it is necessary to sail through the cut heading right for the breaking waves on two other cays on the W side of the channel before making a sharp turn to starboard, N, once over the reef. I was able to sail in and thence up the Harbour with only minor adjustments to ease the sheets. About half way to our intended anchorage off Sand Dollar Beach, I furled the main. Then as we approached the spot I selected to anchor, I furled the genoa and Onward continued to sail N at about 0.8 kts under cockpit canvas alone. I anchored under this sail at the selected spot and then we looked about and saw a better spot just inshore so we moved there. There was a huge number of boats in the Harbour for Cruising Regatta Week but, in spite of this, we were able to find a nice spot not to far from Volleyball Beach where we were not at all crowded. Neat!
  • Having worked so hard to sail here, I declared the rest of the day as time off and spent it reading while working in a cocktail hour, of course.

26 Feb 11; Saturday
  • Barefoot'n called on SSB before the weather and was able to receive me weakly so it looks like I have some more troubleshooting to do to get my radiated transmit power up.
  • We tuned into the cruisers net to find out what was going on and I made announcements both for the Bahamas Cruisers Guide as well as newcomers to the harbor. I also made a request on behalf of Melanie to see if anyone had a spare fishing rod that she could negotiate for. At the end of the net, I was contacted by two other boats: Carl Smeigh aboard Southern Comfort, another C470, and Miles and Laureen Cherkasky aboard Aerial whom I'd met up in Northeast Harbor Maine in August -- small world! We were also contacted by a cruiser who had a fishing rod "surplus to his needs" that we promised to check out.
  • We then headed in to George Town to dispose of trash, fill two jerrycans with water, and shop. I made a visit to Top-II-Bottom, a small store with an amazing array of hardware, marine, and household goods for sale where I found a new Bahamian courtesy flag as I've worn out 2 others so far this season. A trip to the money store, the Scotia Bank which is allied with Bank of America, where the ATM gives out US or Bahamian $ was next. After a quick shopping stop at the grocery, we headed back to Onward and Melanie got her first taste of how rough and wet a ride across Elizabeth Harbour can be. It didn't help that due to a couple of big swells the water jug I was holding on the forward step of Venture got loose and fell on Melanie's toe -- twice.
  • After unloading and stowing our goodies, we headed off to check out the fishing rod. Melanie got a good deal and Onward now has a fisherperson aboard. As fishing lost all its allure for me when I was about 11 years old, this is her sole domain. My philosophy that it is better to have friends who fish, catch the fish, clean the fish, clean up the mess from cleaning the fish, and then deliver gifts of fish filets to me than it is to fish myself remains unchanged.
  • We passed by Southern Cross and I got to say Hi to Carl. Then we passed Aeriel at anchor. Next came Anania and we stopped to say a quick hello to Tom before heading to the St Francis where we found the internet was down. However we encountered Chris Parker eating lunch on the deck and stopped to say hello.
  • After returning to Onward, Melanie went below to make us lunch salads. I was reading in the cockpit when I heard a dinghy approach and it turned out to be Miles and Laureen. I invited them aboard but asked them to wait a bit as I'd taken off my wet shorts when coming aboard and neglected to go below for dry. We then had a great reunion

27 Feb 11; Sunday
  • We needed to get internet access so we Ventured off to St. Francis at 0830 only to find they were still out of internet access cards. So it was off across the harbor to Lake Victoria. I was able to use Exuma Market's wifi before doing some shopping. Melanie got another dose of Elizabeth Harbour chop on the way back and we made good use of my not-elegant-but-effective spray shield.
  • After lunch, we Ventured into Sand Dollar Beach and then hiked to the Sound side. There we couldn't find a trail down to the beach that I was willing to negotiate wearing Crocs so we headed back to the W side of the cay and moved a bit N to find a quiet section of beach where we stayed for an hour or so.
  • We finished up the day by meeting Miles and Laureen at the St. Francis to have dinner and play the weekly Trivial Pursuit game. We did quite well as a team and had we provided a more complete answer to two questions, we would have been one of the 3 winners.

28 Feb 11; Monday
  • I finally got my flags flying again: new Bahamas courtesy flag, Corinthians burgee, and new US flag.
  • It was then off to Volleyball Beach and the Chat & Chill to register to participate in the many events of the Cruising Regatta. We signed up for the dinghy parade, dinghy poker run, meet & greet, bocce, trivial pursuit, coconut harvest, and picked up food tickets for the Wednesday night party. While doing all this, we had lots of opportunity to renew acquaintances with other cruisers.
  • I donated an electronic copy of The Bahamas Cruisers Guide as a door prize and arranged to make others available to cruisers who make a donation to support the Cruisers Regatta.
  • After a burger on the beach, we listened to Chris Parker's talk on weather issues before heading back to Onward for a nap. Carl and Judie from Southern Cross joined us for cocktails and dinner. I tried out a new sour orange marinade for some chicken breast cutlets that I grilled. Delish! Of course, you can't get two C470 owners together without it devolving to boat stuff show & tells and discussions.