Thursday, March 21, 2013

Through Eleuthera and onto the Exumas

We sat for 3 days in Royal Island with rain and wind and no amenities; it was time to move on. Monday has promise as the winds were supposed to be calming down in the afternoon and we were hoping that people in Hatchet Bay would take this time to move on themselves. We pulled anchor along with one other boat and pointed her south towards Current Cut. After several days of high winds even the shallow banks had pretty good waves and chop on it and it tossed us back and forth. We finally made it to the Cut which is a small opening in the island that allows you to transition south or north without having to go all the way around. They suggest you transit the cut at slack tide and a tide going with you rather than against you. We didn’t hit it at slack tide but we did have the current flowing with us so it was a bit sloppy in the entrance with winds and current opposing but once we made it in the current gave us a nice 4 knot push and the water was calm. Once it spit us out the other side it was like glass as the island had blocked all the winds and we saw a great beach we could have spent our days anchored in front of rather than where we were. Oh well, I will keep it to memory for next time. When we were about 10 minutes from the Hatchet Bay Cut we radioed our friends Dave & Tanya on Dea Latis that we knew were here to check in with them. There still were no mooring balls available and even the anchorage was pretty full. I had never seen as many boats in here. We headed for the northeast shore and dropped the hook only to drag while trying to set. We then picked it up again and tried resetting elsewhere. Dirk got into the dinghy and saw that the anchor was completely buried in muck and mud but that’s all it was so when any pressure was put on it, it just slid through it. This is why we don’t like anchoring here. Even the locals say the holding is horrible. One cruiser told Dirk “You can’t back down on your anchor cause it won’t hold” Well duh…..with another front coming I certainly don’t want to figure out my boat isn’t holding till I’m sliding back onto someone else. We found a spot that would do for the night and then tomorrow we would have to make the long trip down to Rock Sound where we knew the holding was good.  We then headed up to The Front Porch to say hello to Gina & Francis the owners. Every year we come here we always try and get a good meal as Francis is such a wonderful cook. We grabbed a Kalik and sat on the porch overlooking the bay chatting with Francis and just relaxing.
Dirk enjoying the relaxation of The Front Porch

We then headed over to Dea Latis to have some sun downers and catch up with each other as we had left the Abacos after they did.  As we are sitting there another boater came up and said he overheard from another boater that he was leaving the next day and asked if anyone wanted his mooring. We are game, so Dirk headed over to speak to the man and the next morning before he took off he radioed us and let us know he was leaving, Dave hopped over on his dingy sitting next to the ball till we got the anchor pulled and headed over to him where he handed us up the lines. Now that’s better and we wouldn’t have to leave. We decided since we were able to stay that we would take a hike over to the Atlantic side to do some beach combing.

The goats kept a close eye on us as we walked past

Usually this is one of my favorite beaches as no ever visits it so there is always nice sea glass to be found. Wow, we got to the top of the sand dune and looked down, what happened to the beach? Must have been the last hurricane that moved through this past summer but there was very little sand and many many rocks.
The beach is reduced to many many rocks
What a bummer, this use to be one of my favorite beaches to walk. Dirk managed to score me a heart sea bean and I found a couple pieces of sea glass before we made the trek back across the island. After returning to the boat the guys decided to go hunting and it gave me some time to do some cleaning and reading aboard. The following day we took a walk into town and hit the little grocery store on the hunt for fresh veggies. We found a few items needed and I actually scored a bag of romaine lettuce. Ummmm I haven’t had lettuce in a long time. No wonder there was no price on it as I didn’t realize what I paid for it till I was back to the boat. At $6.00 a bag I think I will go a little longer in between buyings. On the 7th we decided it was time to head south. Dave & Tanya were staying a day or two longer as they wanted to explore Hatchet Bay a bit longer. We decided that the winds were perfect for us to try out the spinnaker for the first time. Before we left the mooring ball Dirk had everything on deck prepared, poles up, lines run and even had Dave come by to double check everything. All good…They were gonna follow us out of the anchorage and wait for us to deploy the sail then take some photos while under sail so I gave them my camera and they would speed it back to us before we got to far. We said our goodbyes and dropped the mooring line and headed out the cut. We deployed the sail with no problems other than the line to pull the sock back over the sail and douse it had gotten stuck in the sock and was now about 40 feet up in the air. Hummmm, that would be interesting. Oh well, we would deal with that later, our task at hand was to get the sail adjusted right. Dave & Tanya rode along side snapping photo after photo before passing off our camera and saying final goodbyes. Thanks guys and we will see you down island.

The first time for us to fly the spinnaker

We shut the engine down and had a wonderful 3 to 4 hour downwind sail averaging 6 to 7 knots of speed. It was wonderful and smooth. As we were getting close to our way point Dirk pondered what to do. How do we douse the sail and have it go smoothly. There is an emergency release that releases one side of it causing it to drop the wind but one still has to pull it down to the deck without having it trail in the water. It’s a huge sail and a big undertaking. Dirk decided the easiest thing would be to climb the fore stay. He made himself a harness and I pulled him up as he climbed the jib till he reached the line hanging out of the bag. This as we are booking along at 6 knots. It took a bit as he would have to rest the arms but he got it down and he was able to pull the sock down to douse the sail. Lesson learned; tie the rope off so it can’t be pulled up. We found our way into Governors Harbor and anchored by the north wall as the winds were still coming out of that direction. We were the only ones in the harbor so we picked our spot and for the first time ever, we were able to set the hook on the first try and buried it. Usually the harbor is known for poor holding and it takes a while to find a spot that you’re just not sliding around in. We know where to go now but it is on the other side of the town although we did pick up a great free wifi signal there. The only reason we stopped here was this is the only place around that we know of that has an ATM and our cash was getting low. The next place wouldn’t be until George Town and we couldn’t wait that long. Dirk took the dinghy over to town, hit the bank and found a veggie stand where he picked up some bananas, plantains, and limes. We settled in as two other boats pulled in and followed our lead anchoring behind us. The winds were mild but we had a swell coming in that continued all through the night.( As I was preparing dinner the  words from the song The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald kept going through my head. (When suppertime came the old cook came on deck sayin'. "Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya.")
Sleep didn’t find us much that night as I found myself laying there counting 20 seconds off before the next big swell hit. The next morning as soon as the bank was open Dirk took one more ride into town to score additional money as one can only remove a certain amount each day. It was high tide and basically there are no dinghy docks and one must beach your dinghy. Well with no beach right now he anchored it in the surf and took off. When he returned to the boat the dinghy was a mess with grass and water that was thrown in, what a mess.  

Dirk and the mess he returned with. Its an optical illusion but the dinghy isnt that small
Today was Dirk’s Birthday and we would head to Rock Sound in hopes of a better day. We flew the spinnaker again, this time tying the line down and had a nice day. Pulling into the sound there were several boats anchored on the northwest shore due to the winds that had come the previous days. There was only one boat anchored in front of town so again we got to pick our spot. Dirk ran into Dingles motors and picked us up a card for internet and then we changed and went out to the little restaurant on the water so we could celebrate Dirk and his day. We toasted the day with a specialty drink, had some wonderful burgers and fries. We then headed back to Renegade and had a piece of Key Lime Pie that I made underway for his day.

A quiet early evening and a great night’s sleep was had and the next day we made a trek into town in order to hit a grocery store. It was nice to have a nice sized one that actually had a decent selection to choose from. With us having two freezers on board now I was able to pack them with all sorts of stuff before leaving the states and between Dirks hunting and that I have yet to buy any meat. After heading back to the boat and putting groceries away we had a relaxing day on board do a little bit of nothing. Since we had gotten internet we were able to download the weather and see that the following day would be good for making the trip over to the Exumas and we readied the boat for an early departure. We talked briefly with a single hand er gentleman from s/v Cloud 9 that was heading that direction also so we decided to make the trip together. Seems everyone else in the anchorage was heading north. After an uneventful trip, including the lack of catching any fish we made it to the Highborne Cay Cut, made our way out to the anchorage and set the hook. Dirk couldn’t wait to put his wet suit on and hit the reefs so I stayed behind and let him do his thing as I tidied up the boat a bit. That evening we hailed s/v Triumph whom we knew should be in the area at the time and actually got a reply. He was the next island up and plans were made for him and Dirk along with Steve on Cloud 9 to go on an early morning hunt. We met Bill and Elaine several years ago while we traveled on s/v Tybee Time and have stayed in contact ever since meeting up where we can here and in the states. Small community this cruising life offers, that’s why we love it so. After one Lobster and one Queen Trigger fish was nabbed by Dirk everyone returned to their boats picked up anchor and we headed to Normans Cay to wait out yet another cold front. There we hailed s/v Marylee whom we had met 4 years ago in Marathon and kept in contact with since. They were in the anchorage so we had them over for sun downers to catch up. There’s that small world again. They would be leaving the next day heading back to the states so it was nice to be able to catch up and he gave us some pointers on a few places to go while in Long Island. We have never been and are hoping to make it that far south this season. The following day Dirk went on the prowl again and returned home with another Queen Trigger fish and 2 Lobsters. I landed myself another hamburger sea bean thanks to John on Marylee missing one on the beach. That evening Steve from Cloud 9 came by for sun downers and Trigger fish fingers that Dirk fried up with some curried dipping sauce. The next morning we decided to make the trip down to Staniel Cay for, you guessed it, another cold front. What a season this has been, one front after the other has made this one windy, cold season thus far. I put my bathing suit on once so far as you usually find me wearing a light jacket right now. It was a long day motoring down to Staniel but we made lots of water and charged the batteries up nicely. The anchorage by Big Majors was crammed full of boats. I had never seen so many there before and I really didn’t want to have to fight to find a spot in there. We elected since the winds were due to come out of the North to go on the other side of the island and found a spot in about 9 feet of clear water to drop the hook in. There was only one other boat with the same idea so it was quiet except for the wakes of all the power boats and dinghy's flying by. We knew that would taper off as the evening wore on. Not 30 minutes after setting the hook you could see the front approaching with its gray cloud wall leading the way. Soon the winds and rain hit and we sat back comfortably in the cockpit with the side curtains down enjoying the rain and relaxing. We made it to Little Farmers Cay yesterday and are making the decision on how far to move south tomorrow as it depends on how large the sea state is.
Sailing from Staniel to Little Farmers, pretty pretty water

Looking from Little Farmers out to Renegade

We must leave the sound and travel on the outside at some point to make it down to Emerald Bay which is a stop that we always make. It is usually the only marina we stay at while here as they offer $1.00 foot per day on the non service docks. Non service means no electricity but that’s never been a problem. The great thing about it is that they offer free laundry with the huge front loaders and it pays for us to stay there when I have so much laundry to do. The last time I did any was when we were in the Abacos staying in Hope Town. They have great facilities as it is attached to a Sandals resort and the cruisers lounge is great with the pool table and large screen TV’s and a huge sitting room. The staff is wonderful and they greet you at the docks helping take your lines with all your paperwork in hand to sign. If you need to make a trip to the store they will take you in the golf carts if someone is available. Just don’t know what we will do when they ever finish the resort and start charging real prices. We won’t be able to afford it then so we take advantage of it now. After that our plan it to head to George Town before trying to make it over to Long Island. When and if I have internet I will update you.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Getting Out While We Can

With us having to go back into Hope Town to wait out weather we wanted to make sure we made the next weather window to make our escape down to Eleuthera. We said our goodbyes to m/v Ruby Slipper and s/v Clairvoyant who had pulled into a mooring behind us a few days earlier. We had met them while in Green Turtle and had them and their daughter over for sun downers, conch fritters and hog fish fingers with a curry mayo. It was nice to catch up with them again but it was time to go. The day before I had gone and done another 2 loads of laundry at the Lighthouse Marina.
Hope Town Lighthouse
Anyone wanting to know they have wonderful quiet facilities, all new washers and dryers and you can view the lighthouse as your clothes do their own thing. Right on the premises they have a wine and spirits store so I went in to check out the prices. I bought a bottle of Bahamian Rum for $9.95. Heck that was cheaper than one load of laundry at $10.00 a pop. I have been to Hope Town on a couple of occasions and I never checked out the laundry and spirit store before. It’s on my list now. The morning of the 27th we got up, listened to Chris Parker, made the decision to go and so it was a quick trip to drop off the trash, get fuel, run over to the grocery to stock up on fresh veggies and then back to the boat to get out before we lose too much water due to the tides. We got out just fine and traveled a couple hours down to Lynyard Cay. The winds were predicted to be coming from the South West which affords us little to no protection. One place we tried to anchor close to the west side didn’t seem to have good holding and we didn’t feel comfortable there so we moved to an anchorage closer to Little Harbor but it was very rolly due to the ocean swells coming in. We decided to head back up to Lynyard Cay and anchor away from the island in case we drug we wouldn’t be so close. We found a sand bar in about 11 feet of water, dropped the hook and set it well. We wanted to have dinner at Pete’s Pub but with the wind being what it was it would have been one long sloppy wet ride all the way there and back. We decided to cook up a couple lobster and pasta instead. Before dinner we took a ride to the beach to see what could be found. There were several pretty shells and one sea bean I found. We then took the dinghy to the next beach over which has a trail through the scrub to the Atlantic side. There we had the beach to ourselves. Heck we had the anchorage all to ourselves; I have never seen it empty before, that should tell us something. Anyway while walking the beach I found two more sea beans and there were hundreds of sponges of all shapes and sizes littering the beach.
Two sea hearts & one hamburger sea bean
I picked up a couple cool ones and we make the trek back to the boat to cook dinner. That evening the winds laid down a bit and we actually had a pretty calm evening with only the gentle roll of the ocean swell. The following day Dirk wanted to check out the reefs and see what he could scrounge up. He said the reefs had lots of elk horn coral which he has never found to be a favorite of lobster and he did come upon a decent size shark so he decided to come closer in. He ended up collecting 4 conchs and took them to the beach to clean them. That evening we did have a couple boats come into the anchorage from Eleuthera and one that rolled past us to ask if we were heading south in the morning. He wanted to know if he could tag along with us. So at 5:30 am the alarm went off, coffee got made, and everything was situated for the ride south. We had just exited the pass and just getting the sails set when in the distance we saw about 5 huge dolphins jump out of the water at the same time making tracks for our boat. They jumped again almost like saying “ Oh a toy, let’s go play” They made a bee line for the bow of the boat and spent several minutes jumping and zigzagging just ahead of it. Before long they became bored and headed off to do what dolphins do.  It was a good sailing day, the winds weren’t too strong, we had all the sails up and we averaged over 7 knots for the fastest trip we have ever made to Eleuthera. At times we saw over 10 knots. Midway through the trip one of the two fishing lines we had out started screaming. As usual, I take the helm and put the engine in neutral and then set about getting the gaff and trash bag for Dirk. We have found if when you get the fish on board just dropping him in a large black garbage bag it makes it easier to handle. Plus it keeps the blood to a minimum on deck. He had a decent sized Mahi and got him on board and filleted in no time while I set about getting us underway again.

Dirk with the fist Mahi

We decided to pull the lines in as it was beginning to get a bit rough out. Once we hit the Northeast Providence Channel it got even a bit rougher and the winds picked up. We decided to drop the mainsail to level out the boat a bit and give us a more comfortable ride. We did this for a while until things settled a bit and with land in sight we hoisted the sail again and threw the lines back in again. Before long Dirk had hooked a barracuda and quickly sent him on his way. While we were both sitting back relaxing the line that had the cedar plug on it started screaming and Dirk jumped into action as did I. Just at that moment the line on the other side went off too so I set about trying to bring in a fish. I figured we had two more Mahi as they school together. As I got mine close to the boat Dirk told me to put the rod in the holder and he would come bring it on board while I continued to bring his fish in. We switched off and I went about bringing in another one. Actually I was almost hoping one would get free as I was getting tired and winded from the fight. Finally I had the other one close to the boat as Dirk was finishing up getting the first one on board then he came and we both landed the second. Whew, that’s tag teaming and we high fived each other in celebration.

Dirk with the second and third Mahi caught
By this time we were getting close to our way point at Egg Island and while Dirk took in some sails I took us through the reefs and started heading towards Royal Island. Earlier Dirk had called Bandit, the keeper of the moorings in Spanish Wells and was told all the moorings were taken. We had never been to Royal Island but we had to go. There is nowhere else really protected to anchor and the winds were still coming from the east. We pulled in to find only a couple boats anchored and tucked up to the island, dropped the hook and called it a day. It had been cloudy and overcast the entire day and as the sun was setting it was beginning to get cold. While Dirk set about cleaning the last two Mahi caught I made us a curried chicken dish over rice. Nice hot showers and early to bed as our plans were to head to Hatchet Bay in the morning.
All the meat packaged, not too bad and my freezer is full
We got up at 6:30 and listened to Chris Parker. The cold front that was heading our way would be here this afternoon some time and we needed to make the decision to try and outrun it to Hatchet Bay or risk getting hit by squalls all day. We decided the best thing was to stay put. Several more boats came in today looking for shelter also. We called our friends from Dea Latis and we missed them by hours here as they headed to Hatchet Bay. He reported there were no moorings available there either. He had to anchor and said there was room if we wanted to head down. We felt securely anchored here so we would stay. Tomorrow is suppose to be more of the same, rain, wind and generally nasty. As I write this it’s raining and 63 degrees. That’s way too cold for the central Bahamas and for me. On Sunday the winds were a bit calmer in the morning so Dirk decided he would take the dinghy and make the 5 mile trip to Spanish Wells to see if he could get a minute of internet to check the weather. Sunday is the only day Chris Parker doesn’t air so we were in the dark about weather as Royal Island has no amenities. No internet, no anything. It is a private Island that was bought to put a resort on but when the building boom hit bottom it affected the islands here too. Investors pulled out so it sits. You’re not suppose to dinghy to shore and since there isn’t anything there, there is no reason too. We all sat in our boats for 3 days getting cabin fever and itching for better weather. Dirk arrived back to the boat after being gone over an hour cold and wet as it was raining yet again. He did manage to get the weather and we saw we had a window to get to Hatchet Bay the next morning. Tonight however we would have high winds again. As the day progressed they did increase and we had a boat break free and start heading for a large power boat. Dirk and another guy hopped into action to help the single hand er re-anchor his boat while all the power boater did was put out fenders and pull his dinghy out of the way, pick up anchor and move. Thanks for the help jack nut. Apparently we had one more boat drag as the next morning there was one boat repositioned. The next morning we awoke to calmer winds and headed south to Hatchet Bay where I will pick up next time. Till then.......