Saturday, February 28, 2015

Highborne Cay to Staniel Cay

We hung out in Highborne Cay for a couple days to let the winds die before deciding to head on down to Normans Cay. One of our favorite places in the Exumas for now. Unfortunately they have remodeled the restaurant to make it all new and updated when one of the charms of the place was the rustic atmosphere. They also raised hamburger prices from 15 to 25 bucks. Gee, no thanks. They have also redone and added to the runway to accommodate larger planes and have started digging up the island putting in a new marina that will be for larger yachts. We fear its paradise lost and it seems like a sad moment. Oh well, we still have this time here and here we shall stay to wait out yet another winter front. By now they are coming like clockwork and we are getting use to them. We planted our anchor right in front of Palm Tree Island to claim our spot.
Seemed like everyone else had the same idea as us and before long the anchorage had over 20 boats in it. Since it is a channel to the cut it makes for interesting times when tides change. Wind will come from one direction, current from another. Weird to look down and see your anchor behind your boat or laying right next to it. To top it off every boat handles it different and we saw some boats get a bit close to each other. On a day when the winds were not horrible Robert and Sheena on Almost there invited everyone out for a day of fishing on their Catamaran. He taxied us all to his boat for a wonderful pancake breakfast and after we all ate we headed out the cut. The lines were set and we all set out for a day of fun. Robert ended up with a small blackfin tuna, Steve caught a couple fish that were thrown back. Dirk kept getting hits on his line but kept losing the fish. It wasnt until later in the day that he realized the hook on his lure was missing. Hummmmmmm guess why he couldnt hook one.
Renegade sitting pretty at anchor
Relaxing on the back deck of s/v Almost There waiting on the fish to bite. Dirk is relaxing a bit too much
After going up and down the islands we finally called it a day and headed in. First though, we made one more stop as the guys had found a beautiful reef to snorkel and hunt the day before. Several of us stayed on board but the guys decided to see what they could see. All of them saw sharks, multiple, and not nurse sharks. Afterwards we headed back to the anchorage.
Returning from a hunting trip after getting run out of the water by sharks 
In the following days Arkuda, Almost There, and Blue Summit took off and we decided to stay put. We beach combed, Dirk hunted, and we sat sitting out weather to move south.
Dirk chasing around a spotted eagle ray trying to get video
Another lobster in the belly
One of the beautiful beaches
Look at that water
My sand dollar beach pic
Another great beach shot

On Palm Tree Island these baby conch are everywhere.
And one more pic
On the 19th we finally started making tracks south to Compass Cay where we met up with the group again, and then onto Big Majors to begin prepping the boat for guest. Laundry needed to be done and groceries needed restocking. Arkuda and Almost There left to head to Georgetown and Blue Summit and us headed to Staniel. On the way we caught a nice Mahi. I have never been able to catch a photo of one with colors such as this.
Nice Mahi, never seen one look this blue
Dirk filleted him and packed him away before we got into the cut. When we pulled in we saw our friend on M/V Pirate in the anchorage and headed into Pirate Beach for sundowners. Jim and Janie on Pirate started several years ago bringing picnic tables, chairs, BBQ grills and soon others followed. So the beach is outfitted very nicely with stuff that all cruisers are welcome to use. They even provided rakes and shovels to help keep the beach looking nice. Two years ago we placed our sign there and believe it or not our sign is still there.
Cant believe its still here
Jim did say that last year when he got there the sign was faded and on the ground so he and Janie fixed it up and rehung it for us.
Some of the regulars at Pirate Beach

Jim from Pirate with Steve and Kate from Blue Summit
Dirk and Jim catching up
Our time here was spent upping anchor to move between the islands to hide from West winds, cleaning up the boat, and moving back to Big Majors when the weather was decent. I did go check out the new Laundromat/Discount Liquor Store and spent a good portion of the day doing laundry. Its great that they have put a laundry mat there as you had to go to Blackpoint in the past. They only have a few washers, most of which were big loaders, ccommercial style and were $15.00 a load. I ended up spending about $50.00 on laundry. Whew.......But it was done, clean clothes were on board. After that it was last minute stuff and to wait on guest.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Spanish Wells and onto the Exumas

We sat in Spanish Wells for a total of four days while a couple fronts passed through. We had one catamaran pull to the mooring in front of us that we had met briefly in Green Turtle the day we checked in. Soon came 3 other big Catamarans and within the couple days there became acquainted. The men hunted together and we would meet on each others boats in the evening for sundowners and pot lucks. We were all headed the same direction so we planned to travel together for a while. Unfortunately, on the 5th when it was nice and calm dirk decided to take the drone for a fly around the anchorage. Some malfunction and we watched it hover momentarily before it just dove right into the water. We hopped in the dinghy to try and retrieve it. Dirk dove in and said it was still smoking under the water. Sucks because we know we got some awesome footage and it was all lost. Oh well, such is life and it was fun while it lasted. We headed back to Renegade and made our way to Current Cut where we would anchor for the night. At slack tide we all took the dinghies through the cut and tied them to ours. I took the dinghies through while everyone else did a drift snorkel. It was quiet fast so at the other end I picked them all up headed back through and did it again. They all loved it and did what they could to hang onto the rock ledges to slow themselves down. This time when at the end they all putted around for a while before the sun started to drop in the sky and it was time to head back to the boats. The following day we picked up anchor and headed to one our favorite spots in Eleuthera, Hatchet Bay. We set the hook and the others took mooring balls. Then we hopped in the dinghy and drove over to the government dock to drop off garbage and stop in to see if Gina and Francis from The Front Porch were around and if they would be open for dinner. They were and we made plans to see them for dinner before we headed down the long road to the beach on the other side of the island. We passed the usual herd of goats and sheep that hang out and made it to the beach where Dirk found several sea beans and I found several great pieces of sea glass.
cool little hole in the harbor that led to the ocean side so on low tide it sucked it out of the harbor
Back to the boat, quick showers and back to The Front Porch where just about all of our crew was already there. We were the only customers that evening and we ate and drank the evening away. Great times were had by all before we retired back to the boats.
new friendships being made
We needed to make Rock Sound the next day as a big blow was coming and we needed the shelter of the bay so we pulled out of Hatchet Bay early headed south. We did have a couple dolphins swim with us for a while and I got some great video of them. So cool seeing dolphins in such clear water. As we got close to Rock Sound we found some reefs in the middle of nowhere, anchored the boats and dove in for a snorkel. We were surprised at how many Lion Fish we saw and the guys took turns doing target practice on them. They say if you see them kill them. They are very invasive and need to be halted as they aren't suppose to be here and are depleting the lobster and grouper. Shortly after we pulled into Rock Sound and tucked into the North West corner where we would be sheltered from the winds that night. We all had a pot luck aboard S/V Almost There before heading back. The next morning the winds were due to clock around and come from the west so we picked up anchor and made our way to the other side of the bay. We anchored close to S/V Chanceux who we had met in the Abacos. The winds howled all day and both Dirk and I stayed put on the boat all day doing chores. The next day the winds started to calm down so in the afternoon we took the opportunity to hit the local supermarket to restock some food and later a bunch of cruisers all got together to have drinks and discuss the next days crossing to the Exumas.
beautiful sunset to end the day

And the crew once again
Next morning the anchorage emptied out as we all made our way across the Exuma Sound to various points. Our group decided to head to Highborne Cay to wait out yet another front that was due to pass through. Guess its that time of year....

Tahiti Beach Abacos to Eleuthera

We left Tahiti Beach once the tide was high enough for us to get through the shallows. We headed to Snake Cay which has a wonderful dinghy trail that takes you through the flats. It must be done on a rising tide or you will get stuck dragging your dinghy the last part. We spotted lots of cushion starfish, several sting rays and turtles.
old rusted building
 In the beginning you can find spotted eagle rays as they like to hang out in the deep hole at the entrance. Dirk got some great underwater video with his go pro of several critters. After we got back to the boat we headed south to Lynyard Cay and found the anchorage to be pretty full. This anchorage is popular as it is where most people will jump out of to head to Eleuthera. That was our plan but not for a couple days. We set the anchor and waited for low tide to head over to the beach. Since low tide was close to dark we didn't get much beach covered and made plans to return the next day.

Dirk anchoring the dinghy
sea glass picked up on the beach
The following morning many of the boats had left and we were one of the few left. We made the decision that we would use high tide to get into Little Harbor and spend an evening in there. Its a very small harbor with mooring balls and a favorite of ours, Pete's Pub. Since we had to wait for high tide we took the opportunity to walk the beach again. Since this beach is not often walked we scored, or should I say Dirk did. He found 5 heart sea beans and 2 hamburger sea beans. I found a pretty good amount of sea glass so I was happy. Back to the boat where we took the time to make a bit of water and stow a few things in preparation of getting into Little Harbor. We could see the waves crashing on the high cliffs. We would have to get through this to get to the calm waters inside. It wasn't pretty but we got through it. I was sitting in the cockpit wedged in and had Butters wedged under my legs trying to keep him from sliding around. He never fights me in these situations as I think he knows I'm trying to help. Once we got past the rough water we then had to worry about the shallows. We only bumped the bottom once but we know there is only sand on the bottom so no harm no foul. Once in we spotted a mooring and I picked it up tying us securely. Time to relax....we decided to have a late lunch at Pete's Pub and enjoyed a wonderful juicy burger, pineapple and walnut coleslaw and rice & corn. Of course we had to partake in a Blaster. Their signature drink. We were good and only had one, its easy to want more as they are very tasty and go down much to easy. They do have a kick though. We met some cruisers and hung out chatting for an hour or so before calling it a night and heading back to Renegade. The next morning I had plans to walk the beach and Dirk wanted to fly his drone over Little Harbor. Another successful flight although it was a bit windy, he got some great footage. I was a bit unimpressed with the beach. For being right there behind a business I was amazed at how much garbage there was. I know its hard to keep the beach clean when you have so much tanker trash, large ropes, floats, and in general lots of plastic. Just feel like if someone picked up one bag of garbage daily then it would be nicer. But that seems par for the beaches that face the Atlantic. After returning to the boat I took Dirk out conch trolling. Its where we let a line in the water so he can be behind the boat 15 feet or so and I drive the dinghy around over the grassy patches. He covers more ground this way and when he sees a conch he yanks on the rope which can be felt and ai stop. He dives down, retrieves it and we move on. He got his limit of six and we returned to the boat as it was fairly rough in the cut. He gave two of the conchs to the people we met the evening before and Dirk was left with four that he disassembled and put into the fridge for salads. We had to wait for high tide to leave the harbor so we both piddled till time to go. With the moon phase the tide was a bit higher and we got out with no problem and went back over to Lynyard Cay to stage for our crossing. The following day several boats left but we wanted to wait one more day as the winds were to be more in our favor. They were going to be light but if they are we at least want them to be out of the right direction. I prepped food for the crossing as I usually do and we were in bed early as we had a 5 am wakeup. We wanted to be hitting the cut at daybreak. By 5:30 am we were pulling the anchor in the dark and making tracks south. 30 minutes later we were going out the cut along with 11 other boats. Guess it was the day to go, after all, it was New Years Eve, what better way to spend it. After setting the sails we sat back and relaxed finishing up our coffee. We had to motor sail as the winds were too light to do much good. About an hour into our trip Dirk's reel was hit. We got our first Mahi of the season. It wasn't too big, good size though and it looked like a small bull.
Dirk set about filleting him up and putting him in the fridge. Soon after Dirk got a hit on his reel that took all the 80lb test line off. He could not slow the fish down even a little. It was just a constant scream of the line being pulled out. Oh well, guess we will never know what it was. We don't think it was a Mahi as they will usually jump once hooked. Dirk and a few others think it may have been a Tuna. If it was that big, we probably could not have landed it anyway. Plus it would have cut into our trip time. Several hours passed uneventful and we started to see Eleuthera come into view. As we were approaching the drop off point Dirk made sure the lines were grass free and ready to catch fish. Every year but one we have successfully landed something in the spot. I took the helm and as we approached I zig zagged between the 200 and 500 area of depth. I heard Dirk say from the back, "here they come" I didn't realize what he was saying till both reels started screaming. I set the boat on auto and neutral. We still had sails up so they would keep us on course and hopefully not too fast. I grabbed one reel as Dirk grabbed the other and started reeling. Unfortunately the lines got crossed and we had quiet the fiasco trying to undo them without losing the fish. I figured we would lose at least one but they both stayed on the line. Once I got mine to the boat I put the rod back in the holder and set about helping Dirk land his. We had to gaff it as it was too big to net. We finally got her on board and of course she was not happy. Dirk had put his fish whacker up and I wasn't sure where. He was too busy trying to body slam this thing into submission to hear me. I'm running around and finally find it, pass it on and walk away. This part is always hard for me but is a necessary evil. I ran downstairs and found some 7&7 to pour into her gills and help her make her passage into the afterlife a bit more easy. So in the meantime we still had this other one on the line in the water. There was also another right below her unhooked but staying with her. We have heard that they will stick together and if you want to catch multiple fish leave one on the line. This would be her lucky day as we had enough fish already today. No need to be greedy. She was fairly good size but we were finally able to land her in the net and get her aboard to unhook her. She was thrashing so much I thought she might kill herself so Dirk worked as fast as possible and finally got the hooks out and threw her back overboard. At first she seemed a bit stunned but finally took off and dove away.
Next on our agenda would be to get the boat back on course to enter the cut at Egg Island. I took her in as Dirk filleted the other fish and bagged it up with the other one. 1 1/2 gallon size bag of Mahi steaks, not bad for a day of travel.
nice bowl of meat
what a bloody mess
We decided to anchor at Meeks Patch close to the entrance of Spanish Wells and we would decide tomorrow if we stayed here, moved into Spanish or headed south to Current Cut as there was a cold front approaching the states and we weren't sure when it would make it here and how bad. it was New Years Eve yet we knew we weren't making it to midnight so we sat in the cockpit with a sundowner watching a beautiful sunset and toasting 2014 away.
By the way, seeing as this is the last day of the month I will give you Dirk's hunting totals. Mahi 3, lobster 20, hog fish 2, conch 15. The following morning we were up before the sun as seems like the case many days these days and had coffee in the cockpit listening to Chris Parker for his weather report. The wind direction and strength made us decide to head into Spanish Wells to see if we could pick up one of Bandits mooring balls. We made our way to the mooring field after we got our assignment and had our plan of attack figured out. The winds were already blowing pretty good and it was low tide in a small tight mooring field. I would let Dirk drive and I would pick up. It proved to be tricky and after a couple of attempts with the wind pushing us around I managed to grab and secure the line as this family on the boat next to us just stared at us like we were an attraction to see. Come on people, if you see a boat coming into a dock, a mooring ball, or any place that is tight and needs to tie up offer assistance. The guys dinghy was already in the water and he was right next to us. Get in your dinghy and at least attempt to help hand me the rope. I had a few choice words in my head for this guy but for now we were set and this is where we shall be for several days before heading on.

not much room to maneuver