Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sunset from Cat Island

Today we had a long day of motoring 54 miles, with a bonus hour of sailing, from George Town to Cat Island. The brochure said the island was named after a pirate, not the pet. We hope to have at least a few days here to explore before the next cold front arrives. I watched the sun set over the water and attempted to catch the so-called "green flash" optical illusion but did not see it. We have seen it in other occasions but did not photograph it. It really isn't a flash at all. The color of the sun changes as it dips below the horizon and appears to be white, then green.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Topping Off the Tank

We moved Breeze On to an anchorage closer to town but much less protected from wind and chop. After the chop seemed to have died down a little this afternoon we took the dinghy in to town to run a few errands. One of the errands was to buy some diesel. We took our two jerry cans and headed for the nearby yacht club pumps. A woman ran up to us and said, "my boyfriend wants me tell you to buy the gas at the Shell station instead of the yacht club. It is much cheaper." Then he tried to convey, in broken English, the difference in prices. We thanked them, walked back to the dinghy and motored over to the Shell station's sad dinghy dock. I stayed with the dinghy since I didn't think I could make that big step. After a very wet dinghy ride back we rinsed our salty selves and clothes. Then I made my favorite afternoon boat drink, a packet of True Grapefruit crystals, a tablespoon of agave syrup and seltzer. Yum. George likes his with rum.

Goodbye Conception Island

We left Conception Island early yesterday morning and sailed over to George Town. The winds were light for the first hour so we motor-sailed. The wind picked up to 10 knots, 50-60 degrees apparent wind and we turned the motor off. Ahhhh! The wind continued to fill in and was 15 knots by the time we arrived. We were sailing at 7+ knots and the relatively calm seas made for a very comfortable ride, a nice bonus. We anchored at Elizabeth Island, a more remote anchorage on the southern end of Elizabeth Harbour. Very nice until the mosquitoes swarmed as we were sitting down in the cockpit to eat dinner. We quickly escaped to the cabin and spent the evening swatting the mosquitoes that came with us. At 3:30 am the wind shifted 180 degrees as a front rolled in. The anchor alarm went off but we think it was because George had set a tight circle for the alarm. He was concerned about the shallow water behind us when we initially dropped the anchor. We let out more chain (since there
was now plenty of room behind us), reset the alarm and all was well.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

East Bay, Conception Island

This morning we pulled up the anchor and motored six miles to the other side of Conception Island. We dropped the anchor again between Conception Island and Booby Cay. It is another truly beautiful spot and we had it all to ourselves. No boats, no buildings, no other people anywhere. We dinghied a short distance to snorkel over two coral reefs. The second one was especially beautiful with a variety of fan coral growing on large staghorn coral and lots of tropical fish. After lunch we dinghied in the other direction to snorkel over some other reefs. All of the coral we have seen has had algae growing on it and isn't as pretty as I imagine it was once. The photo shows Breeze On with a reef in the foreground (looks like a shadow).
East Bay is considered to be an unsafe anchorage in strong winds so we didn't want to stay the night there. After our lovely day there we pulled the anchor up again and returned to West Bay.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Mangrove Creek

Early this morning we drove the dinghy to a mangrove creek. As we rounded a point about half way down the island the waves picked up to about 3 feet so it was a rough ride. The creek is very shallow with a sand bar across the entrance. We had read that you could enter the creek only at high tide and we thought it was close to high tide. When we turned toward the entrance the waves would push us in and we were committed. Once we were in it was like another world. Calm water surrounded by mangroves. We had looked at a map before we left but we were wishing we had brought a handheld gps so we would at least have a track. George carefully steered around sand bars and we made our way through the creek and its branches. We saw numerous small sea turtles (dark spot in photo). Boy, do they ever swim fast! We tried to keep our eye on the tide so we wouldn't get trapped in low water. After about an hour and a half we turned around and made our way back to the entrance. It looked even
scarier than before, with breakers all the way across. I tied all of the loose items to the dinghy just in case... George masterfully made it out (phew) and turned toward Breeze On. We passed 2 dolphins along the way.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Beautiful Spot

It is hard to describe just how beautiful Conception Island is. Photos don't capture the color and clarity of the water. Every time George or I came up into the cockpit from the cabin we were struck once again by the beauty.
This morning we saw a dolphin swim past then we took the dinghy to shore and found the path to the other side of the island. We walked along a beach and George climbed a large rock to check out the view and take pictures. Then we snorkeled off of the beach. A large barracuda followed us and seemed to be quite curious. In the afternoon we dinghied to shore again and walked along the beach. We met a friendly young couple who worked and saved their money, bought a boat, worked and saved some more, then took a year to go cruising.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Conception Island

We left the Marina at Emerald Bay bright and early this morning. The winds were light and pretty much on the nose so we motored the entire 45 miles. We arrived by mid-afternoon and dropped the anchor. Conception is a small island that is not very protected from ocean swells. We had 1-3 foot swells all the way over and we were a bit worried the anchorage would be rolly and uncomfortable. There is a little surge here but not too bad. The Island is part of the Bahamas National Trust. It is uninhabited and fishing is prohibited. The water is amazingly clear. George watched the anchor dig into the sand as it dropped in 10 feet of water then saw a nurse shark swim by. We watched the sun set in the west and saw a "green flash" just as the sun dipped below the horizon. (No photo of it, unfortunately.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Getting Ready to Move on

The wind has subsided and we are getting ready to leave the marina in the morning. The storm turned out to be not as bad as predicted. We had wind in the 20's for several hours, gusting into the 30's. It has been dry here lately so the wind kicked up quite a dust storm. We had dust all over the boat, inside and out.  It did eventually rain so the outside of the boat was cleaned.  We spent today cleaning all of the surfaces inside. 
We have decided to purchase a portable Honda generator to supplement the solar panels. (Tell your friend he was right, Dave!) George called around and wasn't able to find anyone local who sells them so we are going to order one to be delivered the same way we had our new solar panel delivered. It will be sent to Watermakers Air in Fort Lauderdale and they will fly it to Staniel Cay. We will pick it up there in a week or two. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Potluck

This evening we participated in a marina potluck dinner, organized by Robin from Cookie Monster. There were a lot of people there and a lot of food. It was crowded and noisy.  The photo shows just a portion of the people there.
 I find it difficult to meet people in settings like that but I still enjoyed it. I am very grateful that Robin put it together. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Back at Emerald Bay

After 2 nights in George Town we are back at the Marina at Emerald Bay. A cold front is on the way and is predicted to bring westerly winds of up to 50 knots. There are already a lot more boats here with the same idea. We walked the docks this afternoon and met quite a few friendly boaters. Robin from Cookie Monster is here (she invited us to the bonfire at Lee Stocking Island) and is planning to organize a potluck for tomorrow night. Sounds like fun. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Dinghy Driving Lesson

Even though I am usually at the helm when Breeze On is under power, I never drive the dinghy. George suggested I give it a try. I agreed since the water was relatively calm today. We took the new and improved Chuggernaut out for a spin this morning and poked around a few potential anchorages. Following the instructions for breaking in the new motor, we ran it at no more than half speed and varied the speed as we went. I drove on the return trip. I did pretty well and even managed to get us docked to Breeze On on the first attempt.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Dinghy Outboard

This morning we left the Marina at Emerald Bay and motor-sailed down to George Town. Since the winds were calm we were able to anchor about 1/2 mile from town. We didn't want to anchor there before because it is exposed to east winds. George reinflated the dinghy and we drove it under the small bridge and into Lake Victoria for the first time. We tied it up at Minn's Water Sports and left it there for the installation of our new motor. We ran some errands and stopped for a drink while we waited. It was all done when we returned. We loaded up our provisions and the old motor and started up the new motor. The instructions say to run it at 1/2 speed for the first hour so it will be a while before we can really appreciate how much faster it will be. It is certainly more powerful and even quieter and we do like that.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Change of Plans

We have decided to stay at the marina another week. Chris Parker has predicted a cold front bringing very strong westerly winds.  Anchorages that are protected from west winds are much harder to find than those protected from east winds. Also, we pay a reduced daily fee if we extend our stay so the total cost ends up being the same. We will leave for a couple of days while the wind is calm and return on Saturday. Our new outboard has arrived in George Town so we plan to motor down there tomorrow and have it installed. (The warrantee is valid only if the seller installs it on our dinghy). 
In the meantime, the water was calm enough for snorkeling so we did a bit this afternoon. One of the golf course fairways is next to the water where we snorkeled. George found 32 balls while snorkeling!  We had heard that the strong winds during the PGA tournament caused the golfers to lose a lot of balls. 



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sandals

We took a walk on the beach yesterday and on our way back we went through the Sandals property just to check it out. It seems very nice, but isn't our thing. We are much happier being here on our own boat. 
In the evening we went to the marina "Happier Hour" then stopped by our neighbor's boat on the way back. They invited us to join them and another couple for dinner at the Emerald Bay Pub and Grill. We had a lot of fun. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sticking it Out

For entertainment yesterday we walked to the breakwater and watched boats leaving the harbor. It can be tricky leaving Emerald Bay in winds from north to east. The winds are predominantly east so the conditions are often not good for coming or going. George took a video of one boat leaving. I have been trying to upload it without success. Instead I will include a screen grab from the video. Watching them getting bounced all around made us feel good about our decision to stay another few days. 

A Wonderful Visit Comes to an End


We had a wonderful time with Pam and Brad and were sad to see them leave. We enjoyed their company so much. They had such positive attitudes and it was great to appreciate the beauty and warm weather through their eyes. On Thursday we rented a car and drove down to George Town. George is becoming quite skilled at driving on the left side. We walked around the town and then took the water taxi over to Lumina Point resort on Stocking Island. We ate a delicious lunch on a patio overlooking the harbor, walked down to the beach and then took the water taxi back to town. Brad enjoyed taking photos of the colorful buildings and he was kind enough to share them with me. He especially liked turquoise tire planter. 
Yesterday was a day of relaxation and reading on the beach before their return to the cold north. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

4C's Adventures Tour

Pam and Brad had a fantastic time on their 4C's Adventures tour. I am so happy. They covered a lot of ground in their fast-moving motor boat. They were able to see much more than we could have shown to them even if we had been able to take Breeze On out of the marina. Their favorite spot was Thunderball Grotto and the tropical fish they saw while snorkeling in the grotto. The next favorite was a mile-long sand bar and the beautiful colors of the clear water which change according to the depth. The next favorite was swimming with sharks at Compass Cay. We haven't yet been there and didn't realize that the sharks are not kept in a pen, they are free to come and go as they please. They are well-fed, though. The tour also visited Pig Beach, a cave, a beach with lots of iguanas and Black Point where they ate a buffet lunch at Lorraine's. The tour guides also shared a lot of local knowledge, including the fact that David Copperfield owns 11 islands in the Exumas. For a mere $39,000 a night you, too, and up to 11 of your closest friends could stay at one of his islands.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Great Visit

We are having a wonderful time with Pam and Brad. The weather is less than ideal but they are making the best of it. The temperatures are in the 60's and 70's, it is often cloudy and squally and it is very windy. As they have said, though, it is better than what they left behind in Boston. It is even better than what our friends in Maryland are having now. They have gone to the beach several times, walking on the golf cart paths through the PGA tournament that has been taking place. We attended a "Happier Hour" hosted by the marina on Monday. Pam and George played pool while we waited for it to begin. Pam did the dishes after dinner and really outdid herself piling them up to dry. She takes after her dad in that regard. Last evening we walked to the nearby Emerald Bay Pub and Grill for dinner. It was delicious. After dinner we played Mexican Train. Brad had never played before but he became the champion of the evening. This morning Pam and Brad went off on an all-day tour of the Exuma Islands with Four C's tours. We have seen the Four C's boats zipping around in various anchorages. It is a way for them to experience more of the Bahamas since the wind and seas are keeping us from leaving the marina until after they leave. I hope they are having a good time in spite of the squalls we are having off and on.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Pam and Brad Arrived

Pam and Brad arrived yesterday. They flew into the Exuma International Airport. They left Boston early in the morning, just ahead of a snowstorm. When they arrived in the Bahamas we had our usual 80 degree weather, which felt great to them. The same cold front which caused the snowstorm has now hit here, causing the winds to be 20-30 knots. It is windy and 73 degrees, cool for here. They aren't complaining, it is better than the weather at home. In fact, they have already been swimming at the beach twice. It is supposed to stay very windy all week; too windy to leave the marina so we will find more things to do around here. 




Friday, January 6, 2017

Another Driving Adventure

We rented a car again today to drive from Emerald Bay to George Town. We wanted to visit Minn's Water Sports to put money down on an 8 hp outboard for the dinghy.  The car we rented had the steering wheel on the right which George thought made the driving even harder than when the steering wheel was on the left. He got the hang of it eventually. After we ordered the outboard we stopped at Shirley's restaurant at "Fish Fry"  (a collection of small buildings that sell food, often fried, and drinks.) Then we stopped at Smitty's and Prime Island Meats for provisions. After we returned to the marina we walked over to a different dock to visit a couple we had met in George Town a few weeks ago. They both had the flu so we didn't stay long. Since we already had a rental car we decided to drive somewhere for dinner. By that time it was dark and driving on the left was even more challenging, especially with oncoming cars and their misaligned headlights. We finally found Shoreline Restaurant (closed), turned around and looked for Big D's (couldn't find it) and ended up stopping at Emerald Bay Bar and Grill. It is within walking distance of the marina. The food was delicious so all was not lost. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Marina at Emerald Bay

We left our anchorage a few hours before high tide and meandered through the deepest parts of the shallow water to make our way to Adderly Cut. I used George's Garmin Blue Charts on his iPad to navigate and ignored the Navionics charts on Breeze On's chart plotter. Garmin is much more accurate than Navionics in the Bahamas. The most accurate are the Explorer Charts paper charts. Garmin apparently uses Explorer Charts for their electronic charts in the Bahamas. We have all of the Explorer Charts and they have been very useful for navigation and as cruising guides.
After going through Adderly Cut out into Exuma Sound we turned south toward Emerald Bay. The winds were light and the seas were calm. We had assumed there wouldn't be enough wind to sail, but we were wrong. We sailed a nice, calm beam reach in winds around 10 knots. We haven't had conditions like that since we left the Abacos almost 2 months ago. We pulled into The Marina at Emerald Bay and into our slip. We haven't had Breeze On in a slip for almost 2 months, either. My first order of business was laundry. Emerald Bay has 4 each heavy duty washers and dryers and they are free! And the laundry room is open 24 hours. They also have free wifi and it seems to work better than most of the wifi we have seen in the Bahamas. After dinner it was time for long, hot showers. Ahhhhh.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Perry's Peak

This morning we dinghied over to coconut beach and hiked the trail leading to Perry's Peak, the highest point in the Exuma chain. The view was beautiful. We could spot Breeze On as a tiny speck in the water. We returned to the beach and took a different, much longer trail over to the beach on Exuma Sound. The folks we met last night had cleared the trails with machetes. It must have been a lot of work. Next, we took the dinghy over to snorkel between 2 islands dubbed Tug and Barge. It is easy to see how they earned those names.
Tomorrow we plan to head south to Emerald Bay Marina to await the arrival of our daughter, Pam, and her boyfriend, Brad. We would like to return to this area later and visit Leaf Cay which apparently has numerous iguanas on the beach.
The winds are very light at the moment so we will be motoring tomorrow. A big cold front is due to arrive on Sunday and bring wind of 30-40 kn. We are very glad that we will be tried up to a secure dock by then.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Bonfire

We left George Town just before dawn in order to make it to Lee Stocking Island just before high tide. The swells in Exuma Sound were 4-5 feet, so the sailing was a little uncomfortable but not as bad as yesterday. At least we were able to sail and did not have to motor. We are finding out that your choices here are:1-sail, but cope with lumpy seas, or 2-motor and have calm seas. We wanted to arrive at Lee Stocking Island just before high tide because the chart said there were some areas with depths of 4'9". Breeze On draws 5'8" so we needed those extra three feet with high tide. We made it in without any trouble and anchored in Williams Bay. There were already six other boats anchored but plenty of room for us. Within an hour a couple drove up in their dinghy and invited us to join them for a bonfire in the evening. They invited all of the people in the anchorage. Four other couples showed up and everyone brought food to share. Most others brought hot dogs to cook over the b
onfire. It was a very pleasant evening and we are so grateful to have been included.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Back to George Town

We left Long Island this morning to sail back to George Town. It was windy and we had squalls but we left anyway. We didn't want to take a chance of waiting too long again and having too little wind to sail. We raised the main sail and saw a double rainbow as we were leaving the harbor. For a while the rainbow was so close it was as if Breeze On was the pot of gold. The squalls continued for a few hours and then the skies cleared and we had very pleasant sailing. The seas picked up as we left the shallow Great Bahama Bank and entered Exuma Sound. As we neared Elizabeth Harbour the seas were 4' on our beam and very unpleasant, causing the boat to rock from side to side and making it difficult to control. It wasn't until we were well inside the harbor that they finally calmed down. There appear to be quite a few more boats in George Town than when we left 10 days ago. Not surprising. George Town usually gets very busy this time of year. We anchored quite close to where we were
before and plan to spend just one night. Then we will go about 25 miles north and check out an anchorage at Lee Stocking Island.