Onward's Cruise Journal

Cruise from Maryland to Bahamas via ICW & Return 2008-2009
January 2009

1-8 Jan 08 Marsh Harbor
Thursday, 1 Jan 09

  • The day was overcast with a strong NE wind and cool temperatures. I took it as a good opportunity to work on odds and ends aboard. I gave Mike a hand supporting the windlass motor as he took out the last bolt that held it under the deck. The bad news is that the gearbox is shot.
Friday, 2 Jan 09
  • I walked into town with Skip & Harriet to do some shopping and following the cruiser's rule: visit every hardware store and marine store because you may find something you need.
  • Photo
Saturday, 3 Jan 09
  • Sewing day – I repaired a torn zipper on the starboard doorway of the enclosure and began to sew covers for the 5 jerrycans on deck. I also managed to find my TV camera that I have been looking for the last 2 weeks; it was right in the project bag where it should have been but I'd done such a neat job of coiling up the camera and cable I kept on thinking the bag was empty. I then went on to repair the camera cable that had a broken wire where it went through the waterproofing gasket. It now works fine. I also tried out the video input cable to the Raymarine E120 display and it works fine – I don't need a separate TV now to use the camera. I also experimented with mounting the camera on the mast so I can see forward of the bow. I am hoping to use the camera to aid in navigating through shallow waters here in the Bahamas. The crews of Moondance and Lady of Lorien came aboard for a cookout that was capped off by pieces of the banana nut bread that was given to me at Ginn sur Mer. I had been "feeding" it rum over the last few days and everyone enjoyed the result
Sunday, 4 Jan 09
  • Skip & I talked about leaving the marina tomorrow and exploring the southern part of the Sea of Abaco over the remainder of the week while Lady of Lorien waits for its replacement windlass motor and gear box. Then, bad news for Moondance; the leak is in the water pump shaft seal. The pump needs to be replaced
Monday, 5 Jan 09
  • Mike & Skip spent the morning ordering replacement parts to be shipped FedEx. I began sewing sun covers for the Jerry Cans to reduce sun damage to them. I spent the afternoon at the pool reading a new book, a history of the Yorktown campaign in the Revolutionary War. Harriet taught me a new trick: using a swim noodle to float on my back. I made pizza dough and we capped off the day with pizza and a great movie – Judy Densh in "Notes on a Scandal".
Tuesday, 6 Jan 09
  • I managed to finish sewing the covers before 9AM. It was a fantastic day and we took the ferry from Marsh Harbor to Hopetown where we got the captain to drop us off at the lighthouse. The view from the lighthouse was fantastic. Hopetown has a nice enclosed harbor but there is a shallow channel entrance with ~5' MLW with a limestone ledge that limits deeper draft boats to crossing only around high tide. The town has the feel of a New England village but in pastels. There were many people painting. It reminded me that it is time for me to begin learning how to us the watercolors I bought in Maine. We had a great lunch then walked around the island and Harriet managed to buy what we later found to be a fantastic Key Lime Pie before returning to Marsh Harbor. Then miracle of miracles: FedEx delivered the items that were ordered yesterday morning. The bad news: there is a new 45% import duty on spare parts! I lucked out last year and did not have to pay any under the law at the time.
  • I cooked up a big batch of chili stew. It was a quite night and I slept the sleep of the exhausted.
9 Jan 09 Lynyard Cay
  • Onward & LoL took advantage of the early morning high tide to move out of the marina and anchor at the mouth of the harbor to await Moondance who was waiting for the fish market to open so they could buy minced conch for chowda. Winds were 10+kts from the NE and Onward had a leisurely sail down to the Lynard Cay anchorage where I took the opportunity to exercise the Yahmaha outboard that had not been used since Lake Worth.
10 Jan 09 Royal Island
  • Another early morning start took us out through a peaceful cut at Little Harbor. The ENE wind began to build and enabled a nice sail on a close reach. However the winds became variable and most of the transit was made as a motorsail. We took the cut N of Little Cay sailing the rumb line between the 2 Explorer waypoints and had good water all the way with a minimum of 8 ' at the center of the cut. We anchored for the night in the Harbor at Royal Island. This is quite a nice harbor that is essentially enclosed. There was a lot of heavy earthmoving equipment evident on shore as the process of building a large resort continues. A small marina now exists in the SW corner of the harbo. Ruins of the 1950's manor house are still evident. Cruisers are not welcome ashore due to the construction. It was a quiet night at anchor with several other cruisers.
11 Jan 09 Ten Bay, Eleuthera
  • The flotilla left Royal Island at 0700 so we could make the cut at Current Cut near slack water. The approach to the cut from the N was fairly straightforward but even near high tide there was a substantial current here – not a place to transit near max current. On the S side, the channel is tricky – a sharp R turn and then paralleling the coast about 100 m offshore until the shallows are cleared for the turn to the S. Good water for the trip S past the Pineapple Cays to the anchorage at Ten Bay. Here I went for a swim and encountered a first: the Manson Supreme anchor could not penetrate the hard bottom! It appears there is only a few inches of sand over rock. It was moderately set – would hold at 1000 rpm reverse but not at 1500 so I just used > 100' of chain in just 15' of water. With little wind it was an uneventful night.
12-21 Jan 09 Warderick Wells, Exuma Land & Sea Park, Exumas
Monday 12 Jan 09
  • We set off early for the transit to the Exumas taking the Davis Channel to Powell Point where we put into Cape Eleuthera Marina so LoL and MD could take on fuel and water. I also took the opportunity to top off my water tanks. The channel in is well marked, deep and wide. This is a beautiful facility: an enclosed harbor with 14' depth and slips all around the periphery. There are also a number of buildings with rental apartments. However it was essentially empty! The marina was down to one woman who ran the operation. Upon leaving the entrance channel, we set sail for Warderick Cut. As winds began to pick up and Onward began to outpoint and power by the other boats as winds increased to 17+ kts apparent. After an hour of this, the wind began to fall off and the others began to motor sail and pull ahead. After another hour or so I decided to also motorsail and the passage was uneventful with very easy swells. Warderick Cut was peaceful and we put into the northern anchorage at Exuma Land & Sea Park. It was a bit of a challenge to pick up the mooring with the strong current and cross wind but luck was with me and it was an easy pickup at first try. Mooring here was a bit like a homecoming as I had visited here a couple of times last year. The beauty of the area is breathtaking capped by the crystal clear water and white sand. The string of boats moored in the U-shaped anchorage is a beautiful sight in itself.


Tuesday 13 Jan 09
  • I took the dinghy into park office to check in. Judy was still in charge and doing a great job managing the moorings and being so patient with people. While in the office I made a great discovery: Bahamian Landscapes, 3rd Edition An introduction to the Geology & Physical Geography of the Bahamas by Neil E. Sealey. I had been looking for a book like this for over a year in every bookstore I visited so I immediately bought a copy. When I first came to the Bahamas I was struck by its unique geology and geography – little of what I had previously learned seemed to apply here: Why were there these shallow banks out in the Atlantic? Why were the cays positioned the way they were on the E edge of the banks? Why were there deep trenches just off shore to the E of the cays? Why did the limestone erode the way it did with so many holes and pores? Why did it erode to very sharp edges while all other limestone I'd experienced tended toward rounded edges? Etc., etc., etc. This book explains it all. The book confirms my previous conclusion that the geology of the Bahamas is quite unique in the world. After reading it, I was able to look at the land as I hiked the cay in a whole new way. Neat!


Wednesday 21 Jan 09
Tuesday 20 Jan 09; Inauguration Day
  • After breakfast, I opened a couple of 1-lb canned hams and put them on the grill to brown. At 1030 I packed up a six-pack of beer, the hams, now sliced, crackers and mustard and set off for the ranger station. One of the rangers had invited me to watch the Inauguration with him and we settled in to watch history in the making. I found it a very emotional experience. It was neat to observe this with these 3 young Bahamian rangers who had quite a strong interest in the US election. After the ceremony ended, I returned to Onward with a feeling of relief and peacefulness now that the transition had occurred.
  • I discovered that my SSB transmission power had degraded and Ed Burke was having difficulty picking me up from the Abacos. I decided to check the antenna connection after there was a fall off in my signal when it started to rain in the middle of a session. I found the GTO cable wires were corroded where they were in contact with the SS backstay wire and clamps. I reattached clean wire to the smooth SS surfaces of the antenna side of the insulator and this seemed to improve things a bit. I will need to do more work on this because performance has substantially decreased since I installed it Dec 07.
22-24 Jan 09 Staniel Cay
Thursday, 22 Jan 09
  • At 0900 I checked out of the park, dropped my mooring and set off for Staniel Cay with the flotilla. Winds were light out of the NE so it was a leisurely motorsail under genoa alone. We anchored off Big Major's Spot after noon. After a quick shower, I picked up Mike and Angie and we headed off to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club where we were joined by Harriet & Skip and had a hamburger fix. This was followed by a walk to the Blue grocery store where we did a bit of shopping. The transit from the anchorage to Staniel Cay proved the great difference that moving from the 8-hp Nissan to the 15-hp Yamaha made: the RIB got up on plane with the 3 of us aboard and we moved smartly. Nice! The temperature dropped in the late afternoon and I crawled under the comforter to read.
Friday, 23 Jan 09
  • LoL & MD set off for Black Point after picking up fuel and water. I decided to stay here and work on my albatross list like cleaning up my files. For dinner I decided on a bit of comfort food and made angel hair pasta with olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, bacon, and capers as sauce. Delish. Brought back memories of my Mom making this on meatless Fridays of my youth.
Saturday, 24 Jan 09
  • I stayed on task all morning working on cleaning up all the miscellaneous paper I've been hauling around: triage, filing, scanning, shredding. At 1230 I took off for Staniel Cay to visit Isles General Store and then have lunch at the benefit cookout the local school was hosting. Isles was closed for lunch when I got there so it was off to the town beach and the cookout. I was surprised that they were not selling beer to go along with the ribs they were offering. I started to talk to a couple of local men who had beer and one of them said he would sell me an ice cold sixpack of Heinekin for $21 – not a bad deal for the Bahamas – so I took the offer and eventually sold 2 to another cruiser. After lunch I struck up a conversation with a man who has a cottage on the island that he comes to each winter and found out that in the summer he lives on Block Island and manages the town mooring field. So he told me to look him up when I visit this summer: just ask anyone for Tony.
  • One of the most enjoyable things was watching 5 young boys playing on the beach with a bunch of large pieces of wood building and riding various "ships". A couple of times I helped them out by lifting a heavy piece for them so they could properly place it. The fun and the joy that these boys got from such simple play with just ordinary stuff was in sharp contrast to many young American children who do not have this skill. For my help they agreed to watch over my dinghy while I walked back to Isles General – only to find that it was still closed – the Bahamas, Mon. I later learned that the owner was visiting his bud next door and I just didn't knock on the right door.
  • Photo

25-? Jan 09 Exuma Park, Emerald Rock
Sunday, 25 Jan 09
  • Anchor up at 0745 for short trip into the Staniel Cay Yacht Club fuel pier to take on 32 gal of diesel and 64 gal of water (at $.40/gal). More important I offloaded ($5) a large garbage bag containing all the paper I'd finally gotten around to get rid of. The replenishment mission completed, I set sail for Exuma Park to meet up with Merlin. The wind was ~15+ kts from the NE which made for a great sailing day and Onward was humming at over 8 kts for most of the trip on a close reach. Just after noon I put into the mooring field at the Emerald Rock section of Exuma Park. This is a wide shallow bay protected by Warderick Wells Cay from the NNW to SSW but open to the W. Luck held and I picked up mooring E8 without trouble. Soon after LoL and MD sailed in from Black Point and took moorings nearby.
  • I took advantage of a sunny patch in the partly cloudy day to take the dinghy for a quick trip to the S end of the cay – again I really appreciated the performance of the dinghy with the new engine. When I got back to Onward the sun was still shining so I went for a swim and completed the cleaning of the waterline before the clouds returned. I experimented with taking a shower on the swim platform using a spray bottle with a combination of Dawn dishwashing liquid and body wash gel diluted with water in a spray bottle. This combination seemed to work well with the salt water so I could then just use a quick fresh water rinse off.
  • Merlin arrived about 1600 and took up a mooring next to Onward. I invited everyone over for a reunion party and at Angie's suggestion turned it into a cocktails + dinner party. It was great to be back with Tina and Ed again. I also invited a couple who had been aboard a trawler that Merlin had been traveling with. The cockpit table handled 8 people fairly well. Ed brought in my mail and new EnGenius WiFi amp/interface so I get to play with new toys tomorrow.
Monday, 26 Jan 09
  • The day remained mostly cloudy with NE winds of 15+ kts. In the afternoon we took a couple of dinghies to near the S tip of Warderick Cay and went for a hike to the E side of the Cay. On the way we explored the Pirate's Lair – a hidden area around a spring where pirates had encamped. I got my new wifi equipment working and I seem to get much stronger and more reliable signal now. Laura finally set up her Skype account and we got to have a good talk this evening.
Tuesday 27 Jan 09
  • Ed and Tina donned their scuba gear to check the zincs on Merlin and then they swam over to Onward. Ed acted as my diving instructor / safety diver while I used my diving air compressor and regulator for the first time. It was very easy to adapt to using although I need to work on getting used to breathing under water. Neat! I found out to my surprise that I needed more than 8 lb of diving weights – even without my wet suit. This is a really handy way to work under the boat. I readily put a new zinc on the prop shaft as only one of the two I normally carry was still on. I also discovered that I had apparently hit something hard in the floating in the water that knocked a small chunk out of the fairing on the starboard leading edge of the bow thruster tunnel – something minor that will have to await the next haul to fix.
  • After noon I moved with LoL and MD to the N anchorage leaving Merlin to move N as soon as a mooring opens up as we are expecting a cold front with SW-W-NW winds to come through on Fri-Sat. The current was running strong as was the wind and it took 4 tries to orient Onward to balance these forces and pick up the pennant even with the help of Skip & Harriet in their dink. This happens occasionally to keep me humble...
Wednesday, 28 Jan 09
  • The forecast was for a couple of cold fronts to come through early next week so it looks like we'll be here for a week. A good time to work on boat projects that have been put off for too long. I spent the morning sewing a new sun shade for the stern using the extra fabric I had from the jerry can covers. In the afternoon, Ed and Tina came by and I followed them in my dinghy to explore a small cay just N of Warderick Cut. There is a small cove with a sandy beach on the W side of the cay at a point where it is less than 100 feet wide. I went snorkeling and found a small coral reef just offshore that had a great variety of corals and fish. We decided to come back and visit again.
Thursday, 29 Jan 09
  • Today we took a hike to Boo Boo Hill and the blow hole which was very quiet because it was low tide. On the way we encountered Judy trying to find a way to block a trail that hikers had begun to take through the mangroves. Ed and I lifted big rocks to form a barrier of sorts. I got an idea for trail signs using small flat rocks and decided to make a prototype and give to Judy.
Friday, 30 Jan 09
  • Today I joined Ed, Tina, Angie, and Harriet to journey by dinghy to visit the small cay that we visited Wednesday. The snorkeling was great and there was a wide variety of fish on the reef. We also spotted a ~16" Nassau grouper who did not like us in his territory and made threatening displays to scare us away. This small reef has remarlable displays of dendritic eroded limestone that is in filigreed and curved structures. This is the result of ancient plants around whose routes the sand turned to rock with a very hard structure. As a result, over time the softer limestone eroded away leaving the tracery of the root system behind – fascinating. This small cay has a number of blow holes and caves that essentially go right through the cay. I would like to go back at a higher tide to see them and to record them.
Saturday, 31 Jan 09
  • Today I decided to tackle a couple of tasks I've been putting off because they are a pain – running / tracing wires. With patience and persistence I finally solved one of the mysteries of the Onward universe: I located the AC wire that feeds the receptacle for the washer/drier. From the time I installed this unit, I had not been able to find the terminus of the AC wire that apparently ran from the bow through the cable run in the starboard sophit to the AC breaker panel. I finally located it! It had been hidden in the center of a group of other wires. I then connected it up to a breaker and also connected to the breaker panel a new AC wire that will run my printer that is located on the top of the forward stateroom starboard cabinet.