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Showing posts from 2017

Chez Pierre

Today we celebrated an early New Year’s Eve with dinner at Chez Pierre. We had read wonderful things about this restaurant and wanted to give it a try.  It was yet another adventure. Jean made the arrangements with Pierre. The reviews, in addition to talking about the wonderful food, also said Pierre can be quite cranky.  There had been one Active Captain review that said the people were late for their reservation & were not served (they didn’t say how late!). Anyway, Pierre told Jean he would be open today but wanted to know what time we wanted to come. She also asked if he knew of anyone who could give us a ride. It is possible to get there by boat and dinghy but we didn’t want to have to move the boat just for dinner. Pierre said he would come and get us. Jean said we would be at Basil’s dock which is what other people had always called the dock we use as a dinghy dock. We waited at the end of the road to the dock and eventually saw this tiny white van go flying by. A few minut…

Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas

Our adventure traveling on the south side of Great Exuma Island was a success. The most shallow depths we saw were 7.7 feet in the Comer Channel so we had plenty of water under the keel. We arrived at Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas ahead of schedule, just after 4 pm. The winds were light all day but picked up enouh to sail for the last hour. Our friends Jean and Michael on Desiderata were here along with just one other boat.We spent today doing chores and running errands. First on the list was attending the weekly farmer’s market. We bought some greens, green peppers, bread, coconut candy and stew conch (that is what they call it-not a typo). The local people eat stew conch for breakfast but we saved it for lunch. After the farmer’s market we walked a short distance down the road to Seafarer Marine. This store is every bit as nice as a West Marine. George was hoping to buy a battery switch and wiring to isolate the engine battery. Not only did they have a selection of battery swit…

So Close, Yet So Far

It seems so far from civilization here with no boats and no houses on shore. Yet we heard the George Town cruisers net on the VHF radio yesterday morning and we have good cell service now. We are not far at all from civilization, it is just on the other side of the island. The anchorage at McPhee’s Creek is rolly although the wind has calmed down significantly. Right now what little wind we have is coming from behind. The current is controlling where the boat is pointed. We are waiting until low tide passes before we leave the anchorage. We have to pass through one more shallow area at Comer Channel. The lowest spot is 5’2” at low tide and we draw 5’8”. If we leave here at about 11 am we should reach the shallow part about an hour after low tide and will get to Thompson Bay, Long Island just after sunset.

Sout’ Side Route

It is a whole different world out here on the sout’ side. Miles and miles of turquoise water with no other boats in sight. Uninhabited islands in the distance. Our first day on this route went well. We were able to sail most of the day and stopped for the night at Rocky Point. The anchorage was calm in 8 knots of breeze. Since we would be going through an area with a depth of 5.9 feet at low tide the next day we wanted to know when exactly low tide would be. We knew it should be sometime around mid-morning but wanted to get a better idea since we wanted to avoid going through there at dead low tide. It isn’t always easy to figure out the tides in the Bahamas. Most places relate their tides to the tides in Nassau—1 hour after Nassau tide, 1/2 after Nassau tides, etc.  For a location as isolated as Rocky Point we really didn’t have a good reference.  We knew the tide was falling through the afternoon and evening so George took the hand-held depth sounder and took readings every 1/2 hour…

Up-n-Out Dinghy Ladder

Our ladder came in and we picked it up from Staniel Cay Yacht Club today. A big shout out to Scandia Marine Products and Watermakers Air.  After we ordered the ladder from Scandia Marine Products a few weeks ago they emailed to say there was a backlog for the ladder materials. They asked how soon he needed the ladder.  George told them we are in the Bahamas now and wanted to use the ladder while we are here. They prioritized our order, sent it to Watermakers Air in Fort Lauderdale via FedEx at no additional charge and then Watermakers Air flew it to Staniel Cay.  Really great service from everyone. We won’t be trying the ladder out for a few days. We plan to start a trip to Long Island, Bahamas early tomorrow morning. It is 100 miles from here and will take 3 days. We plan to take a route on the southwest sides of Great Exuma and Little Exuma Islands. I have been calling it the back way but I have heard the locals call it the “sout’ side”. It is shallow but everyone we have talked to …

Merry Christmas

My family moved from New York state to Florida when I was six years old. I remember complaining about the warm weather and lack of snow, especially at Christmastime. (Truth be told, I also remember complaining in New York when snow would get between my mittens and snowsuit.) Of course, I quickly got used to warm weather on Christmas and learned to appreciate it. I even went water skiing one Christmas Day. It has been many years since we lived in Florida and I once again got used to cold weather at Christmas. Last Christmas we spent the day in an empty anchorage in Long Island, Bahamas.  It seemed strange to not only be in a warm climate but also alone. We love spending the winter in the warm Bahamas climate but this year I wanted our Christmas to be more festive. We stayed in Black Point and went to Lorraine’s Cafe for a buffet lunch. We enjoyed turkey, ham and traditional Bahamian food with about 40 other cruisers. It was indeed festive. This morning, before our Christmas lunch, we b…

SUP

The wind became very light this afternoon so we made the decision to inflate the SUP and give it a go. I went first and took one spin around Breeze On. It was all I could do to remain upright. George went next and was just heading back toward Breeze On when the wind piped up as a squall approached. It pushed him toward Breeze On, full steam ahead! We are going to need a lot more practice. 

Second Time is the Charm

Black Point is a welcoming settlement for cruisers. Scorpio’s, one of the bars in town, hosts a happy hour for cruisers on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. There were 10 boats in the harbor when we arrived here on  Thursday so we thought we would meet a few of the other cruisers at Thursday night’s happy hour. We arrived about 1/2 hour after it started and we were the only people there. We waited about an hour while a few local people came and went but no other cruisers. More boats arrived yesterday so we tried again Friday
 night. This time we met several other cruisers. We had met two of the couples last year and were happy to see them again. Five other couples were new to us. We exchanged boat cards, talked about boats and all things Bahamas and had a great time. 

Jack’s Bay & Black Point

The weather was cloudy and cool yesterday morning so I decided to bake some blueberry muffins while George checked and tightened the hose clamps on the plumbing. (More on what inspired him to do that later.)  While he had his head inside the cabinets the wind shifted to the southeast causing the waves to pick up. Our once calm anchorage wasn’t so calm anymore. By the time he finished he was feeling a little nauseous so we made the decision to move. We tucked into Jack’s Bay hoping that White Point would block at least some of the waves. It was slightly calmer in Jack’s Bay and we had the added bonus of two small coral heads nearby for snorkeling. They were close enough that we could swim to them from Breeze On. The wind died completely overnight. The water was so clear that I could see the anchor pointing east while we were pointing west. I am sure this happens in the Chesapeake, too, but we never see it.  We are now back at Black Point and will stay here through Christmas. Lorraine’s …

Isaac Bay

We were all set to start making our way to a George Town when we learned that the dinghy ladder we had ordered is on its way. We have given up on the various methods we tried for getting me back into the dinghy after swimming. I had heard of the Up-n-Out ladder but decided not to buy one before we left home because of the price. Now I wish I had.  The ladder collapses to a relatively small size and is rigid when it extends so it won’t wrap under the dinghy. It is on its way to Watermakers Air in Ft. Lauderdale. After it arrives there Watermakers will fly it to Staniel Cay. We are going to remain in this area until then. We moved from Little Farmer’s Cay to Isaac Bay this morning for a change of scenery. It is amazing how much calmer it is here compared to Little Farmer’s. It is just 4 miles away but the ground it higher, blocking more wind, and we are closer to shore. There are coral heads on both sides of the anchorage so after we anchored we took the dinghy and the look bucket to ch…

Little Bay to Little Farmer’s Cay

This morning we left Little Bay and had a lovely sail 10 miles south to Little Farmer’s Cay. We had bypassed Little Farmer’s a few times last year but decided to stop and check out the small settlement on the island this year.
Yesterday, before we left Little Bay we went snorkeling. We were somewhat disappointed. Last year we had seen a lot of very colorful fish around a small reef. This year there appeared to be fewer fish and none that were that unusual. The reef looked as if it was dying, too. After snorkeling we went for another hike in the unfinished development. There are some stunning views for anyone interested in a lot without water of electricity!
After anchoring at Little Farmer’s we took the dinghy to shore. We had wanted to eat lunch at Ty’s, a well-reviewed place on the beach. Ty’s wasn’t open so we walked across the island to Ocean Cabin. We inquired about dinner and were told our choices were fish, lobster, conch, chicken or steak. We had to make a reservation and place …

Little Bay

We took a short trip around the point from Black Point to one of our favorite anchorages, Little Bay. It has two pristine beaches, great snorkeling, walking trails (roads from an unfinished housing development) and is protected from N to S winds. After we arrived George ran the water maker and inflated our stand-up paddleboard (SUP).Yesterday morning I thought up a way to toast our coconut bread. I set an insert from our pressure cooker over the gas burner and set the bread on top of it. Toast on low for a while then flip it over and, voila!  After breakfast we walked about 2 miles into town to use the WiFi at Rockside Laundry. After we returned George took the SUP out for a spin. We carried that SUP around all last winter in the Bahamas and never even inflated it. Since we are not skilled paddleboarders we need calm conditions to remain upright. Last winter it was either too windy or we were using the calm conditions to move to another anchorage. George did remain upright on the SUP …

Black Point: Laundry and a Haircut

We made it to Black Point at 11:45 yesterday morning. We quickly dropped the anchor, put the motor on the dinghy and rushed to shore. After dropping the stuffed bag of garbage in the designated trailer, I walked as fast as I could to the BTC store while George tied the dinghy and dropped the garbage disposal donation in the donation box. I made it to the BTC store a couple minutes before noon and saw the sign that said they were open until 12:30. Phew!  We bought our SIM card then went to Lorraine’s for lunch. While we were waiting for our food we walked over to Lorraine’s mother’s house for fresh baked coconut bread. After lunch we returned to Breeze On to gather up our laundry and take it to our favorite laundromat, Rockside Laundry. While it was washing, Ida, the owner, cut my hair. It is such a treat to sit outside, facing the beautiful water, while getting my hair cut.  Breeze On is anchored a little to the right out of the picture.Starter Battery Update—we have not had any troub…

Pipe Cay East to Big Majors Spot

It turns out that the anchorage at Pipe Cay East was an almost ideal place to sit out a west wind. The water was very calm throughout the night and we were able to sleep well. The only issue we had was related to the current. George heard a banging noise in the night. When he got up to check it he discovered the stern of the dinghy (which was tied behind Breeze On) banging up against the stern of Breeze On!  They were pointed in opposite directions. The current had the dinghy pinned against Breeze On and he had a heck of a time getting it to move. We had a relaxing morning sitting in the cockpit, reading and looking at the beautiful view. Chris Parker had predicted that the west winds would subside and become light and variable. They hadn’t yet, but by early afternoon we were trusting that they would and we raised the anchor. We decided to tow the dinghy since we weren’t going far but after we rounded the corner of the anchorage it became clear that the dinghy wasn’t happy with the ou…

Pipe Creek

This anchorage isn’t what we expected. Looking at the chart it seems as if the Pipe Creek area had relatively narrow waterways surrounded by islands and cays. It is actually quite wide open. The “creeks” are deeper channels surrounded by sand bars. Some of the sand bars are dry at low tide. Most of the time they are covered by water. Our anchorage is opposite a cut leading to Exuma Sound. Swells come in from the sound making the anchorage rolly at times. Now that the wind has shifted to the west the waves have subsided. The current is very strong here and the orientation of our boat is dependent on the current, not the wind. When the wind is over 20, then it determines the orientation of the boat. Some people put out a stern anchor as well as one at the bow to keep the boat from swinging with the current. We haven’t bothered with that. We took a dinghy ride south this morning to check out more of the Pipe Creek area. We were going over a sand bar and eventually George had to raise the…

Warderick Wells to Pipe Cay

Chris Parker was not exaggerating about winds from the last cold front. Michael, on Desiderata, said he saw winds of 43 knots. The front arrived two nights ago and we stayed hunkered down all day yesterday. It stayed windy through last night and by this morning we still weren’t sure if we wanted to move on. After waiting a few hours we decided to give it a try. As we turned just inside the cut the current was with us and we were traveling at 9.2 knots!  We put the main sail up and sailed at over 7 knots. We had to take a circuitous route through shallow areas to arrive here at the Pipe Cay East anchorage. This anchorage  as the advantage of offering protection from west wind, something hard to find in the Exumas. We looked at this and other similar anchorages nearby last year but were scared off by the depths on the approaches or warnings about current. Today we decided to bite the bullet and try it. We planned to come in on a rising tide, close to high tide. It is beautiful here but …

Warderick Wells

We spent most of the day yesterday and part of the day today trying to sort out the starter battery issue. Fortunately, we are in a stunning location. Unfortunately, there is no WiFi and just 1 bar of cell service at the ranger station only. That hampers our efforts to do any research. We sent emails via the Iridium Go satellite phone and George made a few calls using the Iridium. Tom and Peter from McMichaels (the yacht broker) seem to think a relay that enables the battery systems to be charged in parallel is stuck in the open position. This allows the starter battery to be discharged when a high load is put on the house system (like when running the microwave). Alex from Sea Tek (who installed our lithium ion house batteries ) thinks it is a bad starter battery that should be replaced. I think it is a combination of both. We looked into going to Nassau to buy a replacement battery. We found two places that sell marine batteries but both sell a brand that is too tall for our curre…

Rock Sound to Warderick Wells

We woke up before sunrise yesterday morning to get an early start to the Exumas. There had been two heavy squalls during the night. One with a lot of wind and the other with very heavy rain. Just as we started to get ready to leave the skies opened up again. When it stopped raining George went to the bow and I attempted to start the engine. Nope. Fortunately, George had left the Honda Generator out in case we needed it. He started it up and then I was able to start the engine. Just as we were leaving it started raining heavily again, this time with thunder and lightning. We kept going, thinking it didn't matter if we were moving or at anchor. The driving rain continued for 2 1/2 hours. It rained so heavily that the bimini was leaking like a sieve. I couldn't find a place to stand that wasn't dripping. We had the enclosure panel that connects the dodger and bimini in place and that helped keep the rain from blowing in our faces. The other panels wouldn't have helped bec…

Unintended Consequences

Last night we were anxiously awaiting Chris Parker’s email to help us decide if we were crossing to the Exumas today or tomorrow. It appeared that we would have better wind speed and direction today but better sea state tomorrow. We wanted to see if there was any change in the forecast before we made a final decision. The email didn’t come until after 9:00 (cruiser’s midnight). Based on the email we decided to leave in the morning but by then it was too late to pull the dinghy up onto the arch. 
We got up at 6:00 to take the motor off the dinghy and pull the dinghy up. We did all of our other preparations to leave. As George was at the bow getting ready to pull up the anchor I started and engine and...it shut off again. Just like it had the other day. I checked the battery key. It was on but I switched it off and back on just to be sure. Still nothing. George checked the engine battery, it seemed fine. We started to think it might be a problem with the starter. George started poking ar…

The Mystery of the Beach Chairs

When we went to lunch at Sammy’s yesterday we tied our dinghy at the dock of another restaurant, Frigate Bar and Grill. We felt a little bit guilty about doing that but a man working on the property at the time said we were welcome to tie up there. As we were approaching the Frigate I noticed several very nice beach chairs lined up in the sun facing the water. I was puzzled about why they were there. There isn’t a resort on the property, I didn’t think local people would be interested in sitting in the sun and cruisers like us wouldn’t be interested, either. The man who helped tie up our dinghy told us that he keeps his boat near the dock and uses it to catch conch for the people from the cruise ships. We were skeptical about cruise ships since it is shallow for several miles around Rock Sound. We thought he meant cruising boats like ours. Well, this morning I was reading the Explorer Guide Book and saw that Princess Cruise Line has a private harbor at the southern end of Eleuthera. S…

Rock Sound

It has been a day of ups, downs and then back up again. We dropped our laundry at Dingell’s at 7:30 am. As we returned to the dinghy we saw a man hanging around the dock. He mentioned something about his motorboat tied up to a mooring and George guessed (rightly) that he wanted a ride to his boat. He drove him over to his boat while I waited on the dock. George expected to just drop him off but it turns out he wanted a tow back to the dock. George had never towed anyone with the dinghy and was skeptical it was going to work. It did work, the man and his boat made it to the dock, I got back in the dinghy and we went back to Breeze On. George thought he had earned some good karma. Not so much - more on that later...In other news of the day, we spent a few hours in the morning working on adding more cellular data to my BTC account. When we don’t have WiFi (which is most of the time) we connect to the internet with BTC cellular data. The 2 GB we had purchased a few weeks ago ran out and i…

Ten Bay to Rock Sound

The awning worked as hoped last night, it kept the squalls away. There were actually no squalls at all. After taking measurements for the bungees on the other awnings we prepared to pull up the anchor. I pushed the button to start the engine fan and when it beeped I pushed the starter button. The engine turned over once and everything shut off. Oh no! What could be wrong?  George’s first thought was that the key for the engine battery has been jostled when he was moving things in the “garage”. He turned the key, I tried the engine again and the same thing happened. He checked the engine battery voltage reading on the control panel and it read 13 volts. To be sure he checked it with a voltmeter. That also looked good.  George looked at the battery to make sure the connections weren’t corroded. They looked good.  I scanned the manual but didn’t find anything helpful. Finally, George used a flashlight to make sure the battery key was actually in the “on” position. It wasn’t. He turned it…

Fixing Things in Exotic Locations.

The first project of the day was fixing the torn main sail cover. One of the reef lines had apparently caught on it while we were putting the sail up, most likely in the dark. It is quite a project to get the cover off and back on when the main sail is on. It took about 4 times longer to get it off and on than it did to make the repairs. 
WARNING: This paragraph is for sewing nerds. If you are not, please skip ahead. I first attached a length of binding to replace the seam allowance that had been torn. Then I reattached the webbing and sewed the two sides of the cover together again. Finally, I attached a short piece of webbing across the end of the seam using a box stitch to provide extra strength. 
The next project was putting some bolts on a hinge at the stern of the dinghy. George had noticed that the rivets that held the hinge in place were starting to pop out. While George worked on that I repurposed some wide webbing we had bought to use as a sling for the dinghy. (The sling didn…

Current Cut to Ten Bay

We were motoring through Current Cut at 7:00 am this morning, as planned. We had a little less than a knot of current going with us. After that we had a brisk sail over to one of our favorite anchorages in Eleuthera, Ten Bay. It is basically a long beach with casuarina trees and houses on one end. There is just something about it that we find pretty and peaceful. After getting the anchor set George started up the water maker and filled the water tank. It was the first time we have used it since we left home. Just before we left home George tried the motor and it wouldn’t start. George cleaned the carburetor, with the help of a YouTube video, and that took care of the problem. We were both relieved that it started right up today. We will most likely stay in Ten Bay 2 nights and use the time to live out that old definition of cruising—“fixing things in exotic places.” The photo shows our speed over ground in the lower right hand corner. Not bad. 


Spanish Wells to Current Cut

We enjoyed our visit to the Spanish Wells museum. We learned a lot about the history of the Bahamas as well as more recent history of Spanish Wells. We found the information about their successful fishing industry, catching crawfish (spiny lobsters), especially interesting. If you eat lobster in Red Lobster it most likely came from here. The crew are all equal owners of their fishing boat and share revenues and expenses equally. If someone retires he puts his share up for sale. If someone is interested in buying it the rest of the crew/owners vote on it. Jean told us a lot of the local businesses are co-owned in a similar way. I forgot to take a photo of one of the fishing boats but I fond one online. They are mostly boats that were former shrimpers.  The outriggers aren’t used for nets anymore when catching lobsters. 

After the museum visit Jean and Tom gave us a ride to the Food Fair grocery store in their golf cart. Then they gave us a ride back to the dinghy. We really appreciated …

Spanish Wells/Harbour Island

Yesterday rained almost constantly so we stayed on the boat. I barely even stepped out of the cabin. George ventured out a few times to use the hand pump to pump the water out of the dinghy. I was really wishing we had finished making and attaching bungee cords to the awnings I made so that we could use them. We had to keep the hatches closed because of the rain and it got really warm inside. Today looked to be a much better day so we went to Harbour Island. It is about 10 miles away and accessible by boat through the Devil’s Backbone, a narrow, winding channel through reefs. It is recommended that you have a guide to help you through but we decided to take a ferry or water taxi. We looked into the large Bahamas Ferry. It would have cost us each $50 round trip. Then we saw that we could take Pinder’s Water Taxi. We see their water taxis coming and going frequently. We stopped at Pinder’s grocery store (there is a reason these are called the “family islands”) to inquire. The cashier sa…

Passage to Eleuthera

We pulled up the anchor and left Lynyard Cay at 4:40 am yesterday morning. Why so early?  We wanted to be sure we could make the 60 mile trip to Eleuthera in time to arrive during daylight. We also believed the winds were going to pick up during the day, leading to bigger waves. We were hoping to arrive before that happened. I have to say it was a little creepy for me to be driving out of North Bar Channel between the islands and reefs in the dark. We had a route in the chart plotter that I just had to trust. I also had to trust that there were no big waves coming at us through the channel. There weren’t and everything was fine. There was just a gentle 1-2 ft swell. We motored for about 1 1/2hr until there was enough light to see the sails. We have raised the sails in the dark before, using headlamps and a spot light to see what we are doing, but it is a lot easier during daylight. After the sails were set the ride became much smoother and faster. The winds were stronger than expected…

Lynyard Cay/Sandy Cay/Little Harbour

We left Hope Town yesterday just before high tide and zigzagged our way around the shoals down the Sea of Abaco. We anchored off of Lynyard Cay. It is the first time we have anchored in over two months. We were so busy getting ready for the trip that we didn’t sail much in the weeks before we left home. After we left on October 31 we have either been under way, tied up at a marina or on a mooring ball. It is nice to be anchored again.  Lynyard Cay is a lovely spot.  Just as we anchored a large turtle seemed to be very curious about us. It was treading water about 50’ away and kept popping it’s head out of the water.  It is lovely but the anchorage is also a bit challenging. There is quite a bit of grass on the bottom and it is tough to get an anchor to hold in grass. We tried to find the sandiest area to drop the anchor. We thought we had a good one. George snorkeled our to check on the anchor and thought it looked good. However, after he came back he hit his foot on a rock and found …

Hat Repair

Yesterday George noticed that there was a rip in my sailing hat. He suggested that I could cover it with a patch.  I thought that was a good idea.  While we were walking around Hope Town we stopped in a gift store and spent $8.00 (gulp) on a patch. This morning I got my sewing machine out and sewed the patch on the hat. When I looked in the mirror to check the results I noticed a small dark spot near the patch. I wiped it with my finger and the spot got bigger. It was another hole! I attempted to zigzag the new hole with the sewing machine but it just kept tearing. The old hat has given up the ghost. Well, as my mother would say, it doesn’t owe me anything. I really like the wide front brim and the neck covering in the back. Oh well, I can replace it after we get home. While I was attempting to repair my hat George was transferring diesel from a jerry can into the fuel tank. After that we dinghied over to the marina and filled the jerry can. We went into the marina store and found an …

Happy Thanksgiving

We were extra cautious and left Green Turtle Cay early this morning to ensure we could get through the Whale before the front came through. We headed for Hope Town, another adorable town that we visited and liked last year. As it turns out our friends Jean and Michael were headed for Green Turtle Cay and arrived there this afternoon. Darn! We knew they were on their way to the Bahamas but weren’t sure where they were going. We will have to meet up with them later on. After picking up a mooring in Hope Town we dinghied ashore to see where we might find some Thanksgiving dinner. We saw a sign advertising Thanksgiving dinner outside Cap’n Jack’s, a restaurant on the harbor very close to our boat. We decided to come back later for an early dinner. We had tied up to the main dock in town where there are signs telling boaters to use a stern anchor. That keeps the boats perpendicular to the dock and allows for more boats to tie up. George tossed out our dinghy anchor but didn’t think it was …