Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Shroud Cay

This morning we dinghied down the meandering creek that goes from the west side of Shroud Cay to the east. It was a breezy and choppy ride to get there and downright windy when we got to the eastern side. George climbed a hill that we think was a lookout where federal agents used to watch for drug runners at Normans Cay to the north. The interior of Shroud Cay is all mangrove swamps. There are other creeks that can be explored by non-motorized boats. I think it is best to visit this cay in calmer conditions but we don't want to hang around for that. We are now at Normans Cay trying to sort out whether we will head east or west from here.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Hawksbill Cay

After we arrived at Hawksbill Cay we quickly put the motor back on the dinghy and went to find a few snorkeling spots. We were hoping we were close enough to slack tide. We had apparently missed it, though, because the current was quite strong and we couldn't snorkel much. We did walk on the beach and found a large area with mangroves that was like another world. This afternoon we waited for low tide and dinghied over to a huge sand bar just south of Hawksbill. The sand was so soft it was like walking in quicksand. It was so pretty to see the variations of color between the sand, shallow water and deeper water. Now we are at Shroud Cay, the northernmost cay in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We plan to dinghy down a mangrove creek at high tide early tomorrow morning.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Staniel Cay-again

We finally left Cambridge Cay and motor-sailed down to Staniel Cay. We were not picking up a shipment, for a change. I wanted to return to Staniel to snorkel one more time at Thunderball Grotto and to visit Sandy Cay at low tide. We anchored around the southern tip of Big Majors and we were right in the path of the tour boats. Since it was low tide (best time for snorkeling at Thunderball) and the weekend, there were a LOT of tour boats whizzing by on their way to Pig Beach and Thunderball. We were getting buffeted by a lot of wakes. It was ok for the afternoon since we planned to be out and about anyway. Thunderball was cloudy from the silt kicked up by the rains so it was a disappointment. I didn't see any fish at all. We dinghied over to Sandy Cay and were apparently too far beyond low tide to see the mile of sand bar we were expecting. The day was redeemed, though, with some good snorkeling near Sandy Cay and a very successful trip to Staniel for gas, diesel and food. We
moved around the corner of Big Majors for the night and saw another green flash at sunset.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Another Day at Cambridge Cay

We had planned to leave Cambridge Cay this morning but since it was rainy and windy early this morning we decided to stay another day. Later on the sun came out so we went for a hike to Bell Rock and then up the hill (on the left in the photo). Next we put our suits on and piled the snorkel gear in the dinghy and set out to find some snorkeling. The first spot we tried was way too choppy so we turned around and went to the Sea Aquarium. We had been there before and really liked it. Today it was quite cloudy with silt after the rain so not as nice. On the way back we stopped at a very small beach on the southern end of Obrien Cay. It opens up into a large hidden sand flat surrounded by mangroves. There is a saltwater stream that empties and fills the flats as the tide changes. It was a really interesting spot. At sunset we went the the beach with the two couples with whom we played dominoes last night (it was a lot of fun). Tonight we were watching for a green flash. It was sm
all but it saw it with the binoculars.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Cambridge Cay

We are still on a mooring ball at Cambridge Cay. It turns out this is a great place to wait out a front. Last night a few squalls and a thunderstorm rolled through bringing winds up to 40 knots yet we were quite comfortable. The shallow waters and reefs surrounding us keep the water fairly flat even in the high winds. We spent yesterday and today doing boat chores. It was so windy this morning that George didn't have to work very hard to shake out the rugs & non-skid pads. We have been invited to go to another boat later this afternoon to play dominoes. I am looking forward to it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Standing with Sharks

This morning we dinghied about 3 nautical miles to Compass Cay Marina to "swim with the sharks". Compass Cay is a private island and the marina charges $10 each for the right to step onto the island. So, we paid our $20 and I climbed down the ladder to float with the sharks. The sharks, meanwhile, seemed totally bored by me and mainly just laid on the bottom. Pam and Brad swam with the sharks as part of the 4 C's Adventure Tour last month. I think their tour guide fed the sharks so the sharks swam close enough for Brad to touch them.
Later on we went snorkeling at a few places near where we are moored and saw interesting coral, pretty fish and a sea turtle.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Flexibility

One of my personal goals for this trip was to practice being flexible. I think I am doing pretty well. Our plans for this week after Oven Rock included: Little Bay on Sunday, Black Point on Monday and Staniel Cay on Tuesday. As we were sailing from Oven Rock on Sunday we decided to bypass Little Bay and go right to Black Point where we hoped we would have better protection from the south wind. We planned to spend two nights in Black Point, doing laundry Monday morning and attending a happy hour in the evening. This morning Chris Parker, weather guru, mentioned the possibility of 50 knot SW winds late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning. There are even fewer places here to hide from winds that have any western component than in other parts of the Bahamas. So decided to leave Black point after finishing the laundry and head to Staniel Cay early. I was hoping to eat dinner at Staniel Cay Yacht Club and then snorkel at Thunderball Grotto and visit Sandy Cay on Tuesday. As we
were approaching Staniel Cay George wondered aloud if we would be better off skipping Staniel Cay and going right to Cambridge Cay where we could secure a mooring ball and wait for the bad weather. I agreed and that is where we are right now. George has thanked me profusely for being so flexible and willing to give up opportunities to socialize.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Rudder Cut Cay

We sailed from George Town yesterday and anchored near one of David Copperfield's private islands. This morning we snorkeled over a life-size stainless steel sculpture of a piano with a mermaid. Very cool. David Copperfield apparently had it commissioned to be placed in 15 feet of water. After that we dinghied into a cave with a hole in the top. At high tide we motored past David Copperfield's other islands. One has a very nice looking resort. I have heard celebrities have stayed there but we didn't see any. We had planned to anchor nearby at Cave Cay but it was too rolly so we kept going and we are now back at Oven Rock, where we anchored last week.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Provisioning: how is it going?

Today is a boat chore day. It is windy and choppy on the harbor so we are staying on the boat. So far George has transferred 10 gallons of diesel into the tank, we took the motor off the dinghy, we measured the deck to see what size Porta-Bote would fit, I trimmed George's hair around the ears and we moved provisions from under the aft berth. That last job is always a big one since we have to remove everything from on top of the berth, remove the bedding, the mattress and the boards supporting the mattress in order to get to the provisions. Then, when it is done we have to put it all back together and find new storage places for the provisions. So, how would we review our provisioning now that we have been away almost 4 months? We both think it has gone well. We have more than enough food but as George says, "it is better that than not enough." The recipes have worked out well and we have tweaked them along the way. We have been really vigilant about keeping the inventory u
p to date and that reduces the time spent looking for things (which we both dislike.) It seems to work best if I adjust the inventory immediately after moving something or using it up. The "Numbers" iPad app has worked well for the inventory and an app called "Paprika" works well for the recipes. About every 10 days I write out menus and then use the shopping feature to list what foods we will need. I then use the inventory to find their location and make a note of it so they can be found quickly when it is time to cook. I am making mental notes of what we would do differently. If we do this again we would definitely bring a bigger variety of snack foods and dessert type foods. We have been able to find fresh foods in the stores more often than not. Yesterday we scored big in George Town with lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, a pepper AND avocados! Yes!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Porta-bote

Our new 8 hp motor has helped the Chuggernaut immensely but we still need a different dinghy. We like the idea of the foldable Porta-bote but wanted to see one and ask questions of someone who owns one. When we were at the bonfire the other night I mentioned the Porta-bote and someone said she had seen them in George Town. So, we altered our plans and motored here yesterday. This morning during the cruiser's net I asked if there was anyone in George Town who owned one and wouldn't mind letting us take a look. After the net we stood by on the VHF radio but received no calls. We took the dinghy into town, ran some errands and listened to some music while drinking coffee at a cafe. We took the portable VHF radio with us, just in case. We had just about finished our errands when I spotted a Porta-bote at the dinghy dock. At the same time we got a call from the owner offering to let us take a look. He said he loves his. It goes fast, handles waves well, is stable, roomy and can be
put together in 20 minutes. One thing that some people don't like is that the bottom and sides flex as it moves through the waves. We could feel it flexing when we stepped inside. Overall, though, we think it will be a good choice for us.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Childrens Bay/Lee Stocking Island

We timed our departure from Oven Rock yesterday to coincide with high tide so that the current wouldn't be opposing the wind as we exited Big Galliot Cut. We were sailing at 7 knots in 4 ft seas but our speed meant that the current was really ripping out when we reached Adderly Cut. There appeared to be waves breaking across the cut. We turned toward it, but aborted our approach and continue heading south to Rat Cay Cut which was much calmer. We anchored at Childrens Bay where a 6-7 ft tiger shark swam by. Yikes! A nice couple came by and offered us some conch (they had caught 2 buckets-full) but we declined. This morning the water was so calm and clear we could clearly see the bottom 14 ft below. We moved to Lee Stocking Island at high tide. We did some snorkeling this morning and visited the iguanas at Leaf Cay this afternoon. Next we stopped at the former Caribbean Marine Center. It brought back memories of George's grad school days at the FSU Marine Campus.
A note on our Honda Generator: we used it the other night and everything worked well. When the smart charger indicated "float" stage we turned the generator off. The batteries were very low in the morning, though. Hmm.

News Flash: Green Flash!

I finally saw a green flash! When we met the homeowner of the Sandcastle house, Jean, the other day she talked about seeing green flashes the past two evenings. George agreed that he had seen them, too. For some reason I couldn't see them. Jean said she has to use binoculars to see them. So, at sunset I used binoculars just as the sun dipped below the horizon and I saw it. No photo, my camera wouldn't capture it. I have heard you can see photos online, though.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Oven Rock, Exumas

This morning we sailed 7 miles south to Oven Rock. It was a rather wild sail even though we were using only the jib. Our friends on another boat said they saw gusts of 30 knots. After anchoring and eating lunch we dinghied ashore and walked north along the beach until we saw a well-marked path to a land cave. The cave was quite interesting. There are two fresh water pools that scuba divers explore. George waded in to take a few pictures while I waited on higher ground. Later on we did some fantastic snorkeling over some small reefs just off of Oven Rock. There were so many beautiful fish!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Little Bay, Exumas

One of the downsides of cruising is leaving your social life behind. I really liked the social life I had at home and I miss it. On the other hand, cruisers are notoriously friendly and have met a lot of very nice people. Quite a few of the cruisers we have met seem to travel in pairs (buddy boats) or even larger packs. They tend to socialize a lot with each other. We like to be fairly independent and go where we want, when we want. That means we may spend some time without socializing with others. Lately, though, I have been getting my social fix. Last night we went to a bonfire at the beach. We have tentative plans to get together tonight with a couple we met a few days ago.
Little Harbor is a lovely anchorage. The beach is wide with powdery sand that forms sandbars at low tide. There is a private home known as the Sandcastle overlooking the harbor. We met the owner when she walked out to meet our dinghy as we approached to go snorkeling. We snorkeled some small reefs and saw lots of pretty tropical fish. Behind the beach is yet another failed housing development and marina. It makes for interesting walking trails. We picked out our lot on a high bluff that overlooks both Exuma Sound and the Bahama Banks!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Generator Problem Sorted!

We think we have an answer to why the shore power light was blinking when we connected the boat to the Honda generator! One of the blog readers, Jim, happens to be an electrician and wrote some very helpful comments and emails. Also, Ron, who was next to us at the Marina at Emerald Bay, came into our anchorage this morning. We were so happy to see him. We had talked with Ron about Honda generators while we were at the marina. He let us borrow his to try it out. (Either the error light did not blink when we used his or we didn't notice it blinking.) As he buzzed by us this morning on his way in we said hello and then George said he had a generator question. Later on Ron and a friend came by. The Honda generator normally sends current through both the hot and neutral legs. Ron said he thought the error light was due to the boat detecting current coming through on the neutral leg. He first checked the wiring on the generator to see if the current was split between the hot and n
eutral legs (it was). Next, he used a volt meter to check the current between the ground and neutral side, then the ground and hot side. There were 63 volts on each. Next, he checked the hot and neutral together and they were 125 volts and stable. Finally, he connected the generator to the shore power and used the volt meter to check a through hull to make sure the boat is properly grounded (it was). So, we are good to go to charge up the batteries. Just to be sure, George is sending an email to the manufacturer of the inverter/charger, Victron, to confirm that the error light is not a reason for concern.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Laundry Day at Black Point

Today we motored a few miles south and dropped the anchor in Black Point harbour. George was planning to run the water maker while I did laundry at the Rockside Laundromat. Have I mentioned how much I love this laundromat? We dropped off our garbage and left a donation in the donation box. We walked our laundry down the street, then George returned to Breeze On to run the water maker. As we were walking down the street I was appreciating how convenient this little town is. While doing the laundry (which is very popular with cruisers, not surprisingly) I met some other very nice cruisers. One couple, Jim and Patty on Avalon, invited us to join them for lunch at a nearby restaurant. We did and had a great time. After we returned to Breeze On we pulled up anchor again and moved a few more miles south to Little Bay. It is yet another peaceful, pretty anchorage. It should be a good place to wait out the north wind we expect tomorrow night. In the meantime we are hopeful that are
questions about the shore power error light that comes on when we connect the Honda generator to the boat will be sorted out soon.
(Photo is of Black Point harbour.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Iguanas/Bitter Guana Cay

After we finished our errands in Staniel Cay this morning we sailed a short distance to Bitter Guana Cay. We wanted to see the endangered iguanas that live on the island. Those iguanas are big! Bigger than a small dog, in fact. We took a piece of bread with us to feed them but decided not to do it when we saw one aggressively chasing another. I had visions of all of the iguanas running after me and my bread. We walked along the beach to what looked like a cave under a sand cliff. When we got there an iguana came strolling out so we didn't go inside.

Good News, Bad News

The good news is we picked up our Honda generator. The bad news is we got an error light on the boat when we tried to charge the batteries. Further bad news is we didn't find that out until late this afternoon and we don't seem to have phone service or data so we can't get help.
Yesterday morning we sailed from Little San Salvador to Big Majors Spot (near Staniel Cay). It was much more crowded than when we were there two months ago. This morning we moved to an anchorage closer to Staniel Cay since we were planning to make two dinghy rides to Staniel. The first trip to shop for fresh food (we found some!) buy gas (they are out until the weekend) and pick up the generator. We had ordered the generator to be delivered to Watermakers Air in Fort Lauderdale. They handled all of the customs paperwork, flew it over and had it waiting for us at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. They make it so easy! Our second dinghy ride was to fill up two jerry cans of diesel. We plan to move to Black Point tomorrow where we hope we can sort out the phone, data and generator issues.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Little San Salvador

Today we sailed 18 nm from Cat Island to Little San Salvador, a small island owned by the Holland America Cruise line. Our motivation for coming here was to get closer to the Exumas and also get a better sailing angle. There was a cruise ship here when we arrived in the early afternoon. George radioed their office and asked if there were special instructions for anchoring. The person on the radio politely said not to go ashore until the ship left at 4 pm and to not interfere with the water activities. He also asked that we anchor at the northern end of the island, but we could reposition after they left. It was ROLLY at the northern end and we were counting the minutes until the ship left and we could move. In the meantime we watched the cruise ship folks ride horses near us and even ride them in the water. It looked like fun. There are a lot of cute buildings at the beach.
Ironically, my uncle was recently here on a ship. We had tentative plans to meet up with him until his friend found out Holland America would not allow us to land to meet him.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Orange Creek, Cat Island

We left the somewhat rolly Arthur's Town anchorage yesterday morning with a plan to anchor a few miles away at Orange Creek. There is a nice beach there and a mangrove creek that we could explore in the dinghy. There are numerous coral heads in the area so George stood at the bow as a lookout. As we approached the anchorage it was clear that the waves at Orange Creek were even worse than at Arthur's Town so we opted to keep going around the point to the northwest side of Cat Island. The point did provide more protection and the anchorage was much calmer than Orange Creek. After dropping the anchor we dinghied ashore and walked the beautiful long beach with crystal clear water. Erosion had caused trees at the point to fall and the upended roots looked like modern art. We saw squalls all around us but never had more than a slight sprinkle. During the night the wind and waves shifted and the anchorage became quite rolly. So, this morning we pulled up the anchor again and went ba
ck around the point to Orange Creek. So far, it is much calmer. We hope to explore the creek at high tide.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Arthur's Town, Cat Island

We had a lovely day of sailing up the coast of Cat Island. I guess I will have to take back what I said about there being too much or too little wind to sail in the Bahamas. We dropped the anchor at Arthur's Town and took the dinghy to shore to have a look. The Explorer Guide book says Arthur's Town is the birthplace of Sidney Poitier but we didn't see any signs mentioning that. The town is quite depressed. We saw more than the usual empty, dilapidated buildings. There appeared to be just two businesses open, a bar and a tiny shop with straw baskets. We passed a cute conch salad place along the shore (closed) and a nice looking outdoor bar along the shore (also closed). We are thinking that the town may have been hit hard by the hurricane and didn't have the resources to rebuild.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Hermitage, Cat Island

The day started with running the water maker and doing laundry. As I was taking a handful of laundry out of the bag to put it in the laundry bucket I dropped a sock. It drifted toward the stern where George was running the water maker. I yelled for him to grab my sock. He couldn't hear me over the noise of the water maker. Finally he understood what I was saying and reached down and grabbed it just as it drifted by. Hooray! After all that was finished we dinghied ashore and ate a delicious lunch of grilled lobster at an outdoor beach restaurant, Hidden Treasures. It was the best food we've had so far in the Bahamas. Next we walked up Mount Alvernia, the highest hill in the Bahamas at 206 ft., to the Hermitage. It was built by Father Jerome, an Englishman trained as an architect who then became an Anglican priest and then a Catholic priest. It was his retirement home and fashioned after a 3/4 scale monastery. The views were amazing.