Cruise Journal: March 2009

1 March 09 Sunday, Georgetown
2 March 09 Monday
3 March 09 Tuesday
4 March 09 Wednesday
5 March 09 Thursday
6 March 09 Friday
7 March 09 Saturday
  • Today was Coconut Harvest Day. The goal of the harvest is for dinghies propelled only by its 4 crew using flippers to race each other across the harbor to see who can pickup the most coconuts floating in the water. We used Merlin’s dinghy - sans motor. The crew consisted of Tina, Ed, me, and Barbara from the trawler Barbara. Well we didn’t get many coconuts but we had fun. We then had to pair up and carry coconuts back and forth across a volleyball court pressing the first between our stomachs and then between our backs. This was then followed by the coconut toss. We had fun, made a good try, and finished comfortably out of the running.
8 March 09 Sunday; Georgetown to Thompson Bay
9 March 09 Monday; Thompson Bay to Raccoon Cay, Jumentos
  • We were off at 0400 in order to cross the Comer Channel’s shallow spots on a rising tide which we managed successfully. The only tricky part of the passage was deciding which cut to take from the banks out into the ocean. We made good time with a combination of motoring, motorsailing, and sailing as the wind picked up. We anchored at Raccoon Cay around 1630 where Lady of Lorien and Moon Dance awaited us. A long day but it put us at the S end of the Jumentos and allowed us to then sail N up the chain on the prevaling E - SE winds.
10 March 09 Tuesday
11 March 09 Wednesday
12 March 09 Thursday;
  • Off to Duncan Town by dinghy! There is no good anchorage near Duncan Town on Ragged Island so a visit requires a long dinghy ride across a cut to get there. We set out in 3 dinghies with Angie and Mike riding with me. There was a stiff SE wind and a good bit of wind chop. This made it a challenge to get the RIB up on a plane with the 3 of us and a jerry can of extra gas but I managed. About 2/3 the way there I had to slow down for a turn and came off plane - never to regain it again. The final leg of the trip is down a narrow dredged cut through the flats to he inner harbor where we tied up at the town pier. The town now seems to have only a small population although it looks like it had been significantly larger decades ago. There are the remains of extensive saltworks that are no longer in operation.
  • While walking around I met Captain C - who captains the mailboat Captain C. I introduced myself because I had seen that mailboat many times. I told him I was thinking of sailing Onward back to Black Point by taking the western route around Great Exuma and up the banks side. I told him I was concerned because of my 6.2’ draft and he told me there was sufficient water the whole route but I should go around Hawksbill Rocks and plan to make the next segment on a rising tide near high.
  • We stopped for a beer at a new bonefishing lodge that has recently opened by a US company that specializes in destination fishing expeditions. The young builder and manager had previously been an excursion fishing guide in Montana and Tibet!
  • After a walk through town, we had a nice lunch at a local restaurant. For desert we found ice cream before we left for the dinghy ride back to the anchorage. This turned our to be interesting as I took a wrong turn in the dredged channel and since the RIB was on plane due to the calm water, we got fairly far into the shallows before we discovered the mistake. We managed to get the dinghy through the mud and back to the channel for an uneventful ride home.
13 March 09 Friday
  • We began our trek N with a short hop back to Raccoon Cay - this time to the northern bay.
14 March 09 Saturday
15 March 09 Sunday
16 March 09 Monday
17 March 09 Tuesday;
18 March 09 Wednesday; Water Cay
19 March 09 Thursday; Water Cay to Black Point
  • At 0645 Onward weighed anchor and set off on the adventure to cruise the western, bank side of Great Abaco and up the banks to Black Point - the “back way”. The winds were SSE at ~ 10-14 kts and seas were calm. I started out at the Water Cay waypoint and proceeded N on the rhumb line to ,waypoint to an intermediate waypoint. From there I sailed a course to waypoints at Hawksbill Rocks, Rocky Point, E Baracutra Rocks, and then Black Point. I motorsailed and maintained ~ 7.5 kts all the way. I had made provisional plans to anchor N of the cays near Rocky Point but I made such good time I decided to carry on to Black Point. I had good water all the way except for two shallow spots between Hawksbill and Rocky Point where I saw 7.7’ at about an hour before high tide (Nurse Channel tide station). I anchored at Black Point at a few minutes before sunset. I celebrated the completion of the adventure with cocktail hour. I plan to put more details of this passage route to and from the Jumentos on this website in the near future.

20 March 09 Friday; Black Point to Big Majors Spot
  • Today was the day to do laundry, get another haircut from Ida, and clean up Onward in preparation to receive my guests. My excitement and anticipation in having Joe and Amie spend the week with me has been growing day by day. After completing my chores, I weighed anchor and moved on to anchor at Big Major’s Spot.

21 March 09 Saturday; Big Majors Spot / Staniel Cay
  • I took the dinghy into the pier at Isles General Store and walked over to the airstrip. Last year when Joe flew in, I was about 5 min late and found that the plane had already landed and Joe had been taken to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club -- so this year I was determined to be early. What a busy place! While I waited for the 0930 Watermakers Air flight, two others arrived. I also got a chance to look over the extensive group of private aircraft that included 3 Cirrus planes. One of the company reps was visiting and we chatted for a few minutes before he flew back to the states with his college-age daughter and her friend.
  • Joe & Amie arrived and we set off for the dinghy. While Joe loaded their luggage aboard i took Amie to do some shopping at Isles General Store -- to introduce her to what shopping was like in the Bahamas and how hard it was to get fresh vegetables. We then took the dinghy to the SCYC for breakfast before heading out to Onward. Joe took Amie in to the beach in the dinghy to see the pigs. This year the more aggressive pigs are gone and people were able to walk on the beach near them. In the evening, I introduced them to the dice game Farkel.

22 March 09 Sunday; Big Majors Spot
  • I gave Amie & Joe a chance to sleep in and recover from jet lag. We then spent the day exploring the area by dinghy. After going out to see Sandy Cay close up, we then went in toward Sampson Cay. I had not take Onward this way before because the depths in the anchorage looked too low. I was surprised at the number of large sailboats at anchor. I used the portable depthsounder to check the area and found that the anchorage area was 7’ MLW or better. English Rose was at anchor and we stopped by to say hello. Bob related that there was good depths and holding with fairly good protection from all but he direct W. We then went into the marina for beers and lunch. It is a very well kept facility with friendly staff. We had a nice lunch and then took a long walk around the cay.
  • Joe & Amie in Sampsons “Internet Outhouse”

23 March 09 Monday, Black Point
  • Winds were brisk from the ESE and we set off under sail for Black Point. As soon as the boat took the first gust and we accelerated, Amie, who had not been sailing since our cruise in NE last June, became a bit uncomfortable. The cure for this was putting her at the helm. She is a natural helmsman with a nice touch and readily had Onward under control. Once she felt she had the ability to control Onward and exploit the wind - it just eats up gusts and accelerates - she immediately relaxed.
  • My intention had been to sail into Little Bay - just on the S side of the headland at Black Point - and spend the night so Amie & Joe could enjoy the beautiful beach tomorrow. As we sailed by Black Point, we heard that a cruisers’ buffet was being organized at Loraine’s so I signed us up. We peeked into Little Bay and then returned to Black Point where we anchored for the night. I took Joe & Amie ashore for an afternoon hike. We then returned for drinks and dinner at Loraine’s where I met some friends, Brenda and Walter from Brendaris. My crew got to experience both the ambiance of a Bahamian settlement and the bonhomie of a typical cruisers gathering.

The Crew of Onward and Loraine

24 March 09 Tuesday; Black Point to Cambridge Cay
  • The winds were light and there was an overcast that began to clear as we weighed anchor and moved to Little Bay where I planned to anchor for the night so Joe and Amie could enjoy today on the beach. After anchoring, we went on a dinghy tour and stopped by to see Jim and Nancy on Solitaire. We then went over to look at the reefs near the Sand Castle. I was unsuccessful at raising them on the VHF but while we were looking at the house from the mouth of their little cove, Jean waled down to say hello. I told her that I was the person she and her husband had helped out by letting me use a power meter to troubleshoot my VHF last year. I thanked them again for their help and we had a nice chat. By that time heavier clouds had moved in and our planned beach day evaporated. We decided to head up to Cambridge Cay today instead of tomorrow morning.
  • I contacted Movin’ On as we approached Cambridge Cay and with their advice I successfully negotiated the passage around Bell I clockwise to the mooring field - avoiding a trip in and out of the cuts with the wind > 15 kts from the E.
  • We invited Eliena and Rick over for cocktails. I later made vegetarian pizza for my two vegitarians - I went with pepperoni on my portion.
  • During the day we discussed Joe’s idea for a business he wants to develop. I also began talking with him about my idea for a Bahamas cruising guide website.

25 March 09 Wednesday; Cambridge Cay
  • We spent the day moving around in the dinghy to snorkeling spots -- and getting wet in the process due to the wind chop from the > 15 kt E winds coming through the cut. I also went down to “Kiss Rock” that marks the entrance at the S end of Cambridge Cay and sounded the passage with my portable depth sounder. I found 6.5’ as the minimum depth just W of the rock at ~ 1 hr after low tide. Looks like I might be able to make it through at mid-tide or better on a rising tide.
  • I used some of my quiet time to start outlining ideas to support Joe’s business idea. I also began outlining my concept for a Bahamas cruising guide.

26 March 09 Thursday, Cambridge Cay to Sampson Cay
  • After a leisurely morning aboard, we decided to move on and visit Compass Cay to the S. I had intended to go back around Bell I but as we approached the cut conditions looked benign so I decided to go out and back in Conch Cut. The exit wasn’t bad but the offshore swells rocked us a bit as we had to take them beam on to go the short distance down the coast. When we came in the cut, the anchorage conditions at the NE corner of Compass Cay did not look good due to the swells so we decided to go to Sampson Cay where we anchored. We went ashore for drinks and a good dinner at the Sampson Cay Club.

27 March 09 Friday; Sampson Cay to Staniel Cay & Black Point
  • After breakfast, it was time to move Onward closer to SCYC to put Joe & Amie ashore to board their plane at 1530. The wind was still > 15 kts from the SSW so I wanted to anchor as close to the pier as I could so we would have a short dinghy ride with little wind chop. I anchored just off the reef that parallels the SCYC pier and we loaded the luggage and took the dinghy in to SCYC where we had a great lunch and waited for flight time. After their plane departed, I did some shopping at Iles and Burkes stores and then took the dinghy back to Onward. I weighed anchor to move to Black point for the night. The tide had continued to drop and Onward bounced over a small low spot in the channel on the way out. After anchoring at Black Point, I crashed.

28 March 09 Saturday Black Point
  • I did laundry, topped off my water tanks, and generally rested waiting for the winds to abate so I could sail to meet Merlin at Conception I tomorrow.
  • Since I first came to the Bahamas last year, I had been disappointed in not being able to find a website that had consolidated cruising guide information. I had also become impressed with many Bahamians who were building their businesses to support cruisers - but had little opportunity for making their capabilities known on the web. Since I had some time and had begun to recover my energy, I began looking at available web domains. I discovered that the domain was available - so I bought it. I plan to develop it as a site to aid both cruises and local Bahamians.

29 March 09 Sunday; Black Point to Conception I
  • Onward was off just before dawn. Winds were down to 10-15 kts from the SW and a mild swell was running through Dotham Cut so the exit passage was easy. This was a far cry from Onward’s first exit through a cut last year when, following Pendragon, I encountered ~ 10’ swells at the entrance as an E wind was blowing against a strong ebb tide -- now that was exciting! Once off shore, the swells were ~ 3’ from the SW but there was a set of swells from the E also ?? This made for periods of easy sailing and then I would encounter “moguls” that were spiked and had a short period that caused Onward to crash off the top of the 2nd or 3rd wave in the set. Not pleasant. As I continued to move off shore, the wind eased and the cross swell did the same so for the last 30 nm of the 75 nm trip it was peaceful.
  • I saw only 2 sailboats on the crossing one of which was just the mast of the superyacht Adelle. I also encountered 2 mail boats and one large outboard powered go-fast boat that crossed my bows close by. I was out of sight of land from ~ 5 nm off the coast of Great Guana Cay. About 50 nm into the crossing, I began to wonder if I was on course -- of course the E120 chartplotter said I was. But with no other reference or another boat going the same way to provide corroboration, I began to wonder. Of course this was unnecessary. However in the future when I make a crossing like this alone, I will program my back up handheld GPS (I carry 5 GPS receivers and 4 displays) with the destination waypoint and check it periodically for peace of mind.
  • I anchored in West Bay, Conception I at ~1730 hrs where the anchorage was peaceful with the diminishing winds. After getting settled, Ed and Tina came over in their dinghy to fetch me for cocktails and dinner -- a very nice end to a long passage!

30 March 09 Monday:
  • About 3 hrs before high tide, Merlin and Onward took the dinghies into the interior mangrove creek of Conception I. I found this the most interesting and almost magical part of my visit here last year. As you enter the mangrove area, the channels have crystal clear water over white sand - just crying out for you to jump in and swim. We took advantage of the rising tide to push as far up the various channels as we could to explore the interior. There are many turtles in the water and their ability to outrun the dinghy is amazing. After touring the channels and stopping for a drink and a snack, we went swimming in one of the deeper holes. We were about to explore a big set of mangroves where fish were expected to be hanging out when we encountered a large baracuda that looked to be > 4’ long. He didn’t want us there and we decided to not push the issue. We went back toward the entrance to the mangroves and went swimming in another hole and up one of the channels. As one swims along the edge of the mangroves in the channel, there are many fish hiding out. Compared to my recollection of last year’s visit, the mangroves seemed to be thinner and there were fewer fish along the channel.

31 March 09 Tuesday;
  • Today was a day for hiking on Conception I. We took a long hike down the E side of the island to the beach of the bay at its SE end. From the heights there was a great view of the mangrove area.
  • Beach Bocce! In the late afternoon, I introduced Onward Beach Bocce to Conception Island. While in the Jumentos, I began collecting round hard plastic fishing floats to turn into a Bocce’ set for playing on the beach. On the morning hike, I found a couple more ball floats so I decided it was time to put the game in play. I had intended to cut off any tabs and remove the small lines that remained on them to make it more like a regulation Bocce set. However, I decided it would be more true to the source of materials (beach floatsom) to leave them as is. I then wrote up a set of Onward Beach Bocce Rules and set off for the beach with Ed and Tina to inaugurate the game. We chose a central site on the beach at West Bay near where someone had planted a recovered fishing net float pylon. As you might expect, we had great fun -- although the 3 beers I brought along might have helped. Somehow Tina & Ed managed to win 4 of 5 games to boot. A young couple from a trawler was walking the beach so I dragooned them into a game that the young woman won - figures. We then found a suitable place for the bocce set and instruction.

Onward Beach Bocce Set

Participants in the first Onward Beach Bocce Tournament
  • A group of cruisers had gathered on the beach for cocktail hour so we went over to say hello and to tell them about the Onward Beach Bocce site.
  • Cocktail hour at Conception Island