Beaufort, SC to Wrightsville Beach, NC

Beaufort, SC to Wrightsville Beach, NC

 

Lady's Island Swing Bridge

Lady’s Island Swing Bridge

April 23rd – Pathfinder was underway from the Lady’s Island Marina at 0630 on a beautiful sunny day.   Temperatures were about perfect with a northwest wind bringing dry humidity and a hint that the tropical weather of Florida was behind us. This was the fourth transit of the South Carolina “Low Country” for the Captain and the third for the Admiral and they both agreed that it was one of the more beautiful and interesting

stretches of the Intracoastal Waterway

Crab Traps at Low Tide

Crab Traps at Low Tide

(ICW).   Islands and marshes were in their spring green and numerous birds and dolphins seemed to be intent on their day’s business as we made our way across each waterway.   Sections of the Coosaw, Ashepoo, South Edisto, and North Edisto Rivers were transited during our motor toward Charleston.   Canals or “Cuts” connected one to another and we were grateful for high tide being mid-day to give us a little extra water when crossing the shallow spots.   The tidal currents were in our favor for a good part of the run and as we entered the North Edisto, the

Admiral suggested rolling out the jib to take advantage of the ever-freshening northwest

Carolina Low Country

Carolina Low Country

breeze. Our speed was now averaging 8 to 9 miles per hour (The ICW uses statute miles so we set our GPS to read in “mph” instead of the usual “knots” that we use everywhere else. For those who have forgotten, one mile per hour equals 0.87 knots, thus the speed readouts are a bit higher when using “mph”).   We began to hope that we might make the 1530 opening of the Wahoo Creek Bridge, which was a big deal because it closes at 1600 for rush hour traffic and does not open again until 1800.   “Bridge Races” always add a little excitement to any day on the ICW.   Our son Colin and friend Jack Bixby certainly experienced several races on the voyage south.   Although the bridge never moves, it is basically Pathfinder against the clock when making for bridges that have scheduled openings. Miss a scheduled opening and you will find yourself waiting for 30 minutes to an hour, or worse if the bridge is closed for a commuter rush hour. So much to the Admiral’s delight and the Captain’s surprise, we found ourselves rushing with the current down Eliot Cut to arrive at the Wahoo Creek Bridge with about 3 minutes to spare.   Since the Wahoo Bridge is notoriously slow to open, we actually had 10 minutes to spare,

Ranger Tug

Ranger Tug

but we were thrilled to enter Charleston Harbor at 1545 instead of at 1800.   We had thought of anchoring, but Charleston has a poor anchorage even though plenty of cruisers do use it.   Just the day before a skipper from Maine told us of having his anchor snagged in Charleston and having to hire a diver to free it.   The currents in the harbor are very strong; so all in all, it is not a comfortable place to lie, thus a number of very large marinas do a big business.   We had done sightseeing in Charleston in the past, so we decided to

Scow Racing Sloop - Charleston

Scow Racing Sloop – Charleston

push on across the harbor and take a slip at Toler’s Marina, located just where a bridge from Charleston crosses to the Isle of Palms.   It is a very handy spot, and on the trip south in the fall, the Captain and Jack Bixby used its location to advantage by getting through the timed opening of the Ben Sawyer Bridge when rush hour was complete, thus ensuring a prompt start the next morning. This day had been a long one, so we were happy to “shoe-horn” Pathfinder between the sports fishing boats and have a good night’s sleep.

Cruise Ship Queen Victoria in Charleston

Cruise Ship Queen Victoria in Charleston

 

April 24th – Just to the east of the Ben Sawyer Swing Bridge is one of the shallowest spots on the ICW, some spots reputed to be 2.5 feet at low water.   Even with Pathfinder’s 4-foot draft, this could be a problem.   A wise sailor once stated, “When your vessel’s draft is greater that the depth of water, you are most assuredly aground.”   With a long day’s run ahead we didn’t want to spend any of it aground.   The bridge did not open for daylight business until 0900 so that allowed the crew a leisurely start to the morning. At 0845 we motored out of the channel at Toler’s and waited with several other sailboats for the opening.   About a half mile beyond the bridge was a very disconcerting sight.   A sailboat lay over on its side with its mast at a 45-degree angle.   Its draft was most assuredly greater than the depth!   Although the boat appeared to be in the channel, it was on the south side and most of the recent information we received indicated the north side was the place to be.   So we waited for the bridge opening and wondered what awaited us. Once again, Pathfinder, with the shallower draft, agreed to lead the way for the boats astern that drew 5 feet of water.   As we approached the

Bad Day on the ICW

Bad Day on the ICW

grounded sailboat, we could see that it was a heavy, full keel boat and it would not be afloat anytime soon.   According to the tide tables there was already a foot more of water above low tide, and there might be an additional three feet at high.   By staying on the north side of the channel we slid by with 6 to 7 feet of depth.   The rest of the day was a bit anti-climatic!   The high tide was in the early afternoon, thus giving us plenty of water over the trouble spots between Charleston and Georgetown. The marsh grass was

Lonely Cape Romain Lighthouse

Lonely Cape Romain Lighthouse

not quite as brilliant a green as it was south of Charleston, but there were plenty of waterfowl, ospreys, and an occasional eagle about.   We thought of anchoring but the brisk north wind did not make the marsh anchorage with the strong currents very appealing.

New Motorized Pontoon Bridge

New Motorized Pontoon Bridge

We pushed on to Georgetown and took a berth at the Harbor Walk Marina.   The marina manager told the Admiral that if she could walk very fast she might just make it to the seafood shop before its 1800 closing. For anyone who has tried to keep up with the Admiral’s brisk pace, you will know that she is quite capable of burning the pavement and by the time the Captain had finished his paperwork at the office, she was back with fresh swordfish, shrimp, and a local crab dip.   The grill was fired up and the swordfish was the perfect ending to the long day.   The shrimp were put on ice for the next day’s feast.

 

April 25th – An early morning check of the weather forecast had Pathfinder’s crew scrambling to be underway at 0700.   Rain and possible thunderstorms were now predicted to arrive as early as 1300. We motored out of Georgetown with fleeces under our rain jackets and knew that the warmest days of the trip were over.   The Waccamah River

Waccamah River Sunrise

Waccamah River Sunrise

can be a very scenic place and the Admiral started her eagle count early. Unfortunately the rains also arrived early, but with little wind, we continued to ascend the river against a current of a knot or more. A little after noontime we arrived at our destination, the Osprey Marina.   Given the number of ospreys we sighted on our trip up the river, the marina is well named.   The Admiral’s eagle count had only reached four, well below the count on our last trip up the Waccamah, but if we had counted ospreys we may have reached 20 or 30.   The marina is actually in the south section of Myrtle Beach, but with its narrow cut through the cypress swamp, it feels like you are entering a secret passage. Once through the cut you find a marina filled with slips and a number of large boats that fill almost every inch of the basin that was dredged out to make the business possible.   Maneuvering to the fuel dock and later to our slip took a good deal of concentration.   The water was certainly fresh, and several turtles poked their heads out of the water to look us over.   The marina seems to be a favorite place for folks “from away” to leave their boats, either for the season, or for a short stretch to break up the trip to the north or south. It would be hard to find a better “hurricane hole.” The Captain got an overdue oil and filter change completed on the engine while the Admiral found the laundry to be a safer place and was able to talk to a few cruisers that we had last seen in Titusville.

 

April 26th – At 0630 it was light enough to squirm out of the Osprey Marina and back into the ICW.   If the “Low Country” of South Carolina is our favorite ICW stretch, the run past Myrtle Beach and on to Southport, North Carolina is probably our least favorite.   It is highly developed with homes, condos, golf courses, and even billboards visible.   A little bit might be interesting, but after two or three hours it gets monotonous.   One stretch that is not developed is the “Pine Island Cut,” or what is known as the “Rock Pile.”   It is a stretch that runs for several miles that has rocks along the bank and apparently under the keel.     This is very unnerving for Chesapeake Sailors and those from other places with nothing but sand or mud bottoms to sail in.   For sailors from Maine it is just another reason to pay attention. As we entered North Carolina waters we came upon a few dredge spoil islands that were not developed but had a number of goats wandering about.   This intrigued the Admiral who was on the helm and when we passed an island with an old billy goat lying on his side, she wondered what the problem could be.   Several smaller female goats were standing close by, but there was no movement from the large goat and the Admiral declared that it must be dead.   The Captain put the binoculars on the old goat and it certainly appeared to be recently deceased.   Now there is always a danger in becoming too engrossed with other subjects when transiting the ICW.   Suddenly the Admiral let out an exclamation that did not raise the old goat from the dead but got the attention of the Captain.   With the depth sounder reading 3.5 feet, and Pathfinder’s draft of 4 you might wonder why we were not most assuredly aground.   The fact is Pathfinder’s depth sounder transducer is located about 8-10 inches below the water line, so we were skimming along nicely with 2-4 inches under our keel.   A quick course correction to the center of the channel brought more comforting depth sounder readings.   By mid-afternoon we were approaching Southport, at the entrance to the Cape Fear River.   The ICW runs up the river for about 7 miles, and with the tide in our favor, we decided to pass Southport by and carry on.   Unfortunately there was also a brisk north wind blowing against the incoming current

Baptism in the 65 degree ICW

Baptism in the 65 degree ICW

so it was a choppy and sometimes wet run for over an hour. We were happy to enter Snow’s Cut that led the ICW back toward the ocean and the beach town appropriately named “Carolina Beach.”   There is a deep-water basin protected from the ocean by the house and condo lined barrier island.   The town has recently installed moorings for cruisers like ourselves, which we were happy to pick up after a 78-mile day on the ICW.

 

Wrightsville Beach Sunset

Wrightsville Beach Sunset

April 27th – It was a brisk start to the day at Carolina Beach with the fleeces and long pants out in full force.   Chores were completed and a few repairs made.   It was an easy 12-mile run up the ICW to Wrightsville Beach where we took a berth at the Seapath Marina. Their courtesy car allowed an easy run to the Harris Teeter grocery store. Harris Teeter operates the most upscale grocery stores we have found in the south.   Cleaning and a few more jobs were completed.   The Admiral has a bounce in her step as she is getting time off for good behavior to visit grandson Oliver out in Colorado and make a quick run back to Maine.   Art Hall is flying in to fill in and keep the Captain abreast of the latest happenings in Belfast and the Pine Tree State.

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Lake Worth, FL to Beaufort, SC

Lake Worth, FL to Beaufort, SC

 

April 12th – The anchor was brought aboard early and we waved a final good-bye to Lee and Shelby on Emerald City. With at least 9 opening bridges to be avoided on the ICW, Pathfinder headed back out through Lake Worth Inlet and turned north to run along the Florida Coast. There was not enough wind for a good sail, so the engine did the work with a mainsail well out and strapped down to keep the boom settled.   Flying fish were everywhere and kept us entertained, while the Florida coastline was the same, mile after mile. Only the Jupiter Inlet lighthouse offered a change in scenery. A number of high and dark cumulous clouds banked up over the shore but did not make their way over the waters. The Admiral kept an eagle eye on their progress. By mid-afternoon we entered Fort Pierce Inlet, where a large salvage barge and crane was anchored in the middle of the channel.   Sometime in February a barge sank in the middle of the channel and the inlet was closed to all marine traffic for a number of days.   Small craft such as Pathfinder were now allowed to skirt around the wreck, but there were several patrol craft with blue lights flashing.   A larger concern was the number of fishermen about, some who thought anchoring in the very limited channel was a good idea. Hey, if the fish are there, that’s where they have to be!   An anchorage was located just inside the inlet to the west of the ICW where we spent a peaceful night, although there were showers and flashes of lightning in the distance.

 

April 13th – Our original plan was to head out into the ocean once again and make an overnight trip to Port Canaveral, about 110 miles to our north.   After reading reviews of the Canaveral marinas (there is no anchorage) and their distance from grocery stores, we

Admiral and her Sunshade

Admiral and her Sunshade

reassessed.   An overnight run would mean spending a lay day in Canaveral, and we could make the same distance in two days running on the ICW, thus our progress north would be the same.   In addition, Vero Beach had a mooring field with very inexpensive mooring rentals, plus a free bus shuttle to the Publix and West Marine.   We decided we could put up with the ICW!   Vero was only 12 (statute) miles to our north so it was a quick trip.   The shopping was efficient plus lunch was eaten at an Irish deli/pub that we had enjoyed two years ago.   Two antenna connectors were purchased at West Marine to see if any improvement could be made to the masthead antenna reception with the VHF.   It was great to have a regular shower once again and Vero’s dreaded no-see-ums kept themselves scarce due to a steady breeze from the south.   The antenna wire from the mast was trimmed back and new connectors attached.   Unfortunately there was no real improvement in performance.

 

April 14th – After taking on fuel and water we made our way back on the ICW and headed north. In the late morning we entered the wide Indian River and rolled out the jib to get a

A True Houseboat

A True Houseboat

boost in speed and to cut back on the engine RPMs.   In the early afternoon the Captain pulled the companion stairs to take a routine look at the engine and was surprised to find the coolant reservoir almost filled to the top.   This reservoir is quite a bit larger than the old one that was replaced in Emerald Bay.   Using a short piece of hose and a thumb, some coolant was removed from the reservoir to provide space.   Since the engine had been running for four hours, there really should have been no further expansion of the coolant.   As we approached Cocoa in the mid-afternoon the Captain mentioned to the Admiral that she should check the NASA website to see if any launches were planned from the Kennedy Space Center in the near future.   It was in Cocoa back in January that the Captain and Admiral rose at 0400 to witness a Space X launch.   As the Admiral checked the website she was disappointed that we had missed the latest Space X launch by a day.   She then kept reading and realized that launch had been postponed and it was now scheduled for 1610 today!!!   We would be almost due west from the launch site at that time.   Sure enough, and on schedule, the Space X supply rocket lifted off and we watched it streak into the bright blue sky, that on this day was devoid of the squalls and showers that had been along the coast the previous few days.   The cameras were out, and we

Contrail from Space X

Contrail from Space X

couldn’t believe our luck to have been in this stretch of water twice when there were launches.   Elon Musk must be reading the blog.   We headed for an anchorage in the lee of the “NASA Causeway” bridge and another check of the engine showed the coolant reservoir tank to be almost full once again.   “Houston, we have a problem.”   At least we were just a sailboat on the ICW and not a few hundred miles above the earth, or cruising in the Bahamas for that matter.

 

April 15th – A few phone calls were made to start the morning.   At Ross’s suggestion via phone, Towboat US was called for a recommendation of mechanics in the area.   Lee had reviewed what to be looking for with the symptoms of a filling coolant tank. Fortunately there was no oil floating on top of the coolant, which would have indicated a failed head gasket.   A number of mechanics that were contacted indicated that they were extremely busy.   One did call back from the Titusville area and said he could look at the engine in the afternoon.   It was a short run five miles to Titusville and the municipal marina had slips that were a relative bargain at $1.40 per foot.   Phil, the mechanic, arrived in the early

Dredging the ICW

Dredging the ICW

afternoon and performed a pressure test on the coolant system.   The pressure dropped off slowly, which was an indicator of a leaky heat exchanger.   Salt water entering the fresh water-cooling system would explain why the coolant reservoir was filling up.   One problem: there were no heat exchangers for a Westerbeke 27A to be found in Florida.   In fact the closest one was in California!   So now the Captain had a decision.   How soon did he want that heat exchanger?   The weather at this time was hot and humid in Florida and there was no real break in sight.   The boat is heading north. The barn door is open. So the heat exchanger received a first class ticket, but had to be sent to the parts distributor in Fort Lauderdale first before being sent to Titusville.   There were rainsqualls late into the evening in Titusville, but we found our boat neighbors to be friendly folks and we caught up with our Internet browsing.

 

April 16th – The Captain and Admiral walked into town for breakfast, then the rest of the day was spent running a few errands and cleaning. Hot and sultry continued to be the weather word.   We found the marina was a haven for manatees.   They seemed to be

Titusville Manatee

Titusville Manatee

everywhere and when a fresh water connection from the dock started dripping, several of the huge and homely critters would vie to see which one could catch the most drops.   We were told that they love fresh water.   One was seen close by with a blue stripe that looked suspiciously like Pathfinder’s bottom paint.   Apparently it had been scratching its back on the bottom of our keel. The heat exchanger arrived in Fort Lauderdale and was promised to arrive in Titusville on the 17th.   Steady rain showers fell into the evening and the locals were telling us that we are seeing weather that is more normal for early summer.   Lucky us!   The day ended with a FaceTime chat to the family in

Manatee Gets a Few Drops

Manatee Gets a Few Drops

Boulder.   Oliver is growing up and the Admiral has a flight planned to Colorado in the very near future.

 

April 17th – Another hot day in Titusville.   The heat exchanger did arrive on time but alas the mechanic informed the Captain that Pathfinder’s job was not at the top of the list.   We kept occupied and our friendly marina mates offered rides to several stores.   An extra length of VHF cable allowed the backup antenna to be mounted above the bimini.   The usual round of thunderstorms visited in the late afternoon and evening. It was another steamy night.   What’s the temperature in Maine?

 

April 18th – The Captain was grateful that the mechanic agreed to work on a Saturday. We were tapping our feet and waiting.   A phone call to him at 0900 revealed that he was not a crack of dawn type of guy, but he appeared at 1000 with an assistant.   Since he was earning the money, he had to climb down into the port locker and the Captain worked from the front of the engine.   After an hour and a half the old heat exchanger was pried successfully from the rear of the Westerbeast, and neither the mechanic nor Captain had added any blood to the engine’s red paint.   Naturally an adapter had to be purchased from the hardware store so there was a pause in the action for over an hour.   There were few clouds in the sky this day and little wind so any shade that could be found was welcome.   The mechanic and helper did return and the new exchanger was installed and pressure tested with the engine running.   We were pleased with the results. All that remained was to while away the late afternoon and evening and to try to stay as cool as possible and keep away the no-see-ums. Florida’s charms were fading quickly in late April.

 

April 19th – Pathfinder was underway after a four-day hiatus in Titusville. We were fortunate to have a clean marina, reasonable rates, and friendly neighbors for our stay and repair.   Our 0630 departure was planned to beat some of the heat and arrive at our next destination before forecasted afternoon thunderstorms.   We made good time and passed by several rookeries covered with the roseate spoonbills that we had confused with flamingoes on our first trip down.   We went through the “Haulover Canal” into the Mosquito Lagoon and found it filled with fishermen and manatees.   Noting that the manatees were in pairs we concluded that the mating season was well underway.   It was a Sunday and by mid-day we approached New Smyrna Beach.   An air show was going on by the beach and a muscle boat show was appearing on the ICW.   Once again we were treated to Florida’s display of who has the most horsepower and can cross as many bows as possible.   Jet skis made their appearance and we were relieved to get past Ponce Inlet where most of the hubbub was concentrated.   It was also a welcome relief to tie up in the quiet basin of the Halifax Marina in Daytona Beach.   In the late afternoon a familiar looking boat arrived and tied up to the slip next to Pathfinder.   We had actually never seen it before, but it appeared to be Pathfinder’s twin.   It turned out to be a Sabre 36, built the same year as Pathfinder, and had the same lines and ports (windows) as our Sabre 34.   We chatted briefly with the owners but they were meeting friends so we couldn’t compare notes as much as we would have liked.   There were thoughts of a meal ashore, but the big thunderstorms rolled through and we had another splendid meal aboard.

 

April 20th – More thunder and squalls in the forecast, but this time an actual weather front was predicted to pass through and maybe provide relief from the heat.   We were underway at 0630 again and watched the storm clouds gather as we motored the ICW past the Palm Coast complex and the marina of Marineland.   We took on fuel in St. Augustine in the mid-afternoon and were grateful to have a mooring as the clouds became darker and the weather radio predictions became more ominous.   Once again the late afternoon and evening became a rain event, although there were some very strong winds to accompany

After the Storm - St. Augustine

After the Storm – St. Augustine

the storms for a short while.   On the other side of the Waterway, the Captain spied the bright blue and red hull of the large sloop “Kiwi Spirit,” tied to a private dock.   The vessel had been built by Lyman-Morse in Thomaston, Maine and was designed to take its owner, Dr. Stanley Paris around the world.   He was hoping to break Dodge Morgan’s single-handed nonstop run from Bermuda and return but in the end he put into Cape Town, South Africa after a gear failure from an accidental gybe.   The Captain met Dr. Paris when adjusting his compasses on the St. George River in Thomaston.   He

Kiwi Spirit

Kiwi Spirit

was in his late 70’s at that time and had already accomplished a great deal in his life.   As well as being a successful doctor (his specialty escapes me at this time), he swam the English Channel twice and completed an Iron-Man triathlon in Hawaii. Yes, he is a native of New Zealand, but resides in St. Augustine.

 

April 21st – Our departure from St. Augustine was somewhat leisurely compared to the previous two mornings.   The “Bridge of Lions”, the best looking draw on the Waterway, did not open as it was suppose to at 0830. We joined several other vessels at this time, but for a reason only known to the bridge tender, we all waited until 0900.   The other vessels headed north on the ICW, but Pathfinder headed for the open sea.   The St. Augustine Inlet is tricky, and the buoys are not even charted since the Coast Guard has

St. Augustine Light - from the Inlet

St. Augustine Light – from the Inlet

to move them so often.   Fortunately the marina had provided the Captain with a layout of the current location of buoys that was a big help since there was a dogleg in the run to deeper water.   As we approached the final entrance buoy we turned the bow north with the mainsail set and motored toward South Carolina. We had a beautiful day to put the Florida Coast behind, although there was not enough wind for a pure sail, and the engine did the bulk of the work. There was a great sunset and the Admiral and Captain took turns with 2 hour watches.   Early morning fishing boats out of Georgia came Sunset Over Georgia

Carolina Shrimp Boat

Carolina Shrimp Boat

zipping by in the dark and added a bit of tension.   The Captain enjoyed an hour and a half sail with the engine shut off and the big dipper and north-star guiding the way.   At dawn we found the entrance buoy to Port Royal Sound just where the GPS said it would be, and by 1100 we were all fast at the Lady’s Island Marina, across the bridge from downtown Beaufort.

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Rock Sound to Lake Worth, FL

Rock Sound, Bahamas to Lake Worth, FL

 

April 2nd – It was time to explore another Bahamian grocery store and we had heard that the Rock Sound market was better stocked than many.   This was true, although the selection of fruits and vegetables always depends on when the last boat with provisions arrived.   As with many of the stores, most of the supply comes from the States, with the additional cost of handling and shipping tacked on.   Since most Bahamians are just getting by, food must be a major expense in their budget.   About noontime we made an excursion to the food booths that had been set up for the local “Family Reunion” festival.   The Captain purchased a tasty “jerked” pork but everyone else thought the ice cream was the real reason to visit.   Returning to our boats, we pulled up the anchors and moved about a mile north in the harbor.   Our anchorage had been right off the beach where the reunion was being held and we were warned that the expected music was going to be deafening.   In the evening the crews of Emerald City, Pathfinder and Sundance V returned to the food booths to collect meals “to go.”  By picking up our orders around 6 PM, we were avoiding the expected crowd for the evening festivities.   In the late evening the Captain drifted off to sleep with the opening speeches of the ceremony in the background.   Just in case, he put in earplugs.   An hour or so later he woke to a din that could only be described as a band setting up its speakers in Pathfinder’s cockpit.   The new anchorage a mile away and OSHA approved earplugs probably dampened the vibrations, but they were no challenge for the cacophony that was blasting forth from the Rock Sound Family Reunion Festival.   Obviously the town should have been named LOUD ROCK SOUND.   All good things must come to an end, and by 0200 on April 3rd things were definitely winding down.   The good news for the party hearty types on Eleuthera was that there were going to be two more nights of music.   The good news for Pathfinder and friends was that there was going to be a new harbor much further north.

 

Governors Harbor Beach

Governors Harbor Beach

April 3rd – the crews of the three boats made a groggy start at 0800 but a beautiful sail powered them 30 miles north to Governors Harbor.   The Captain had heard nothing but bad news about the holding ground in Governors but Ross of Sundance V explained that the secret is to nose in as close to the sandy beach off the town as you dare and drop your anchor in the sand, not the grass covered bottom that is everywhere else.   Governor’s

Governors Harbor Hillside

Governors Harbor Hillside

looks like a cross between Bermuda and the Bahamas, with a little Cape May thrown in for good measure (okay, very little).   Its name comes from the fact that it was an early seat of the Bahamian government in the 1700’s.   A walk was taken ashore and several of us observed a plaque in a hidden plot in town that honors the first Bahamian U.S. consulate established on the spot in 1787.   If a friendly local had not pointed this out it would have been easily missed as it was in the back corner of a very small and old stone foundation.   The plaque was installed in 2007.   We passed by the Anglican Church, that according to Ross was built in the style normally found in the English countryside,

Library

Library

and heard the congregation singing the last of the Good Friday hymns. The reason Governors Harbor has a Bermuda feel is the fact that many of the buildings are brightly colored and are on the steep hillside that surrounds the harbor.   Cape May comes to mind from a few Victorian homes at the foot of the hill.   We walked around the town and up and over the hills and down to an unpretentious ocean resort on the Atlantic side of Eleuthera.   There were a number of private vacation homes en route and it is obvious that well healed North Americans and Europeans have been coming to this spot for quite some time.   After lots of walking along beaches and up and down the hills, a good night’s sleep was enjoyed by all, especially after the concert the previous night in Rock Sound. The local “fish fry” shack was jumping but it could not keep any of our sailors awake.

Helping with the Dinghies

Helping with the Dinghies

 

Governors Harbor Home

Governors Harbor Home

April 4th – We awoke pre-dawn to the sound of a preacher or preachers telling sinners to repent and to make way for the Lord.   They were loud and obviously trying to get the attention of the folks who had stayed up late at the “fish fry.”   There was competition however, as the local rooster population was putting up such a din that we couldn’t tell exactly what the preachers were saying. After breakfast we motored the dinghies over to one of the strangest craft I have ever seen. It was tied to a mooring and was actually a raft with a small “Quonset” hut type of structure in the middle and a mast with a cross tree for setting a single square sail such as one would see on a clipper ship. This remarkable structure was sailed by an 84 year old man and a few buddies from the Canary Islands to St. Marten in the Caribbean (see http://www.governorsharbourvacationrentals.com/best-of-eleuthera-adventures-of-the-antiki-raft/). So honest are the Bahamians that valuable gear has been left untouched and the lock on the cabin door remains undisturbed, even though the raft broke free of its

Antiki - It crossed the Atlantic!

Antiki – It crossed the Atlantic!

mooring and washed ashore this February before being re-secured.   We departed in mid-morning and had a motoring trip up the coast of Eleuthera. Our destination was Hatchet Bay Pond, proclaimed to be the “most protected harbor in the Bahamas.” Along the way a radio call came in from Emerald City letting us know that the main course for Easter dinner had been reeled aboard. It was a good-sized “Spanish mackerel,” reputed to be one of the better tasting fish of tropical waters (unlike the mackerel caught in Maine, this is a large fish with white, non-oily flesh). Arriving at Hatchet Bay Pond, we would certainly agree that it would be hard to find a more protected harbor anywhere.   The pond was landlocked until a business venture intent on shipping cattle

Cut into Hatchet Bay Pond

Cut into Hatchet Bay Pond

from the area decided to blast a hole in the limestone cliff and make a connection to the ocean.   It is a very narrow, but very deep opening, and the pond is deep enough to allow large cargo boats in and out.   Unfortunately the cattle exporting scheme died long ago and apart from a regularly scheduled cargo boat from Nassau, primarily yachtsmen and Bahamian fishermen in small boats use the port.   We set the anchor in the sandy bottom and the Captain used the afternoon to change out the transmission and engine oil, while the Admiral sniffed out a laundry way down the road.   Reports were that the town was a bit hardscrabble, but with the usual friendly Bahamian folks.

 

April 5th – The Admiral had heard of an Easter Sunrise Service to be held ashore.   At 0245 she was up and starting to bustle about when the Captain informed her that she was a bit early.   So after an hour or so of staring at the overhead, the crew went to sleep only to awaken a bit too late to make it ashore for the service.   Nonetheless, Pathfinder’s crew piled into the rubber dinghy and rowed quietly to the center of the harbor to view the rising sun amongst a chorus of roosters.   A few Reese’s peanut butter cups were deposited in the cockpits of Emerald City and Sundance V in the absence of chocolate eggs.   Later that morning, Shelby agreed to be winched to the top of Pathfinder’s mast to see if the

Shelby Aloft

Shelby Aloft

problem with the VHF radio reception could be identified.   She reported all to be well 50 feet above the water, and after making sure the antenna wire connector was in good shape she was lowered to the deck.   Shelby is up for any challenge, and being by far the lightest of all the sailors in the group, she was a great choice for the job!   A walk was taken ashore in Alice Town, which is the actual name of the village along Hatchet Bay.   We were enticed into a well-maintained and colorful restaurant named “Twin Brothers,” that had been featured at some point on CBS television according to the promotions posted about.   We were not ready for a meal, but mango sorbet was offered and we couldn’t turn that down. It was so cold that it burned the throat going down, but we soon recovered on this 80-degree Easter.   Dinner was aboard Sundance V, and the main course, what Lee deemed the “Holy Mackerel,” was grilled aboard Emerald City and transported via dinghy.   It was an Easter feast that will not be forgotten.   Shelby made real mash potatoes, Gail made salad, and Rosemary topped it all off with key lime pie!

 

April 6th – Emerald City and Sundance elected to sail for the quiet and well protected anchorage at Royal Island located west of the northern tip of Eleuthera.   Even closer to Eleuthera was Pathfinder’s destination, Spanish Wells, which is home to a fairly prosperous community that is supported by the largest fishing fleet in the Bahamas. After leaving Hatchet Bay, Pathfinder sailed close to the shoreline in order to view the “Glass Window,” a section of Eleuthera that was so narrow that it had been knocked down by

Eleuthera's Glass Window

Eleuthera’s Glass Window

waves from the Atlantic side of the island.   The “window” is crossed over by a small bridge, however there are days when high seas force the road to be closed, thus isolating the bottom two thirds of the island.   Since a number of Eleutherans work at the resorts of Harbor Island and on Spanish Wells, this can be a problem.   From the Glass Window we sailed to “Current Cut,” a well-named slot that is between long Current Island and a point of land from Eleuthera.  The cut needs to be approached with caution due to shallow banks on the approach, and most vessels try to make the transit when the tide flow is at a minimum.   Judging by the number of vessels passing the cut when we approached, we all had the same idea of when slack water would be.   We passed through the slot without incident and then set sail for Spanish Wells in a strengthening easterly.   The mainsail eventually was reefed and we were happy to enter the narrow and congested harbor. The lobster season had just ended on March 31st, so the fleet was in. They provide most of the lobster sold in the “Red Lobster” chain across the United States.   The lobster tails are processed and frozen in Spanish Wells after being landed from vessels that cover the entire Bahamian archipelago as their fishing grounds, but primarily cays and banks to the far south.   The vessels appeared to be more like draggers in New England, and bore no resemblance to the lobster boats of the Maine Coast.   We wound our way around the narrow harbor to an even narrower slot where a number of moorings are maintained for yachtsmen.   One mooring was empty at the head of this narrow arm of relatively deep water.   With the wind blowing hard from the east, which was protected only by a sand bank, it was a tricky maneuver to pick up the mooring pennant as there was very little room for error.   A fellow on one of the other boats jumped in his dinghy and zipped to the mooring to hold the pennant up for the Admiral.   Unfortunately the short pennant required a line from the boat and we were unprepared and had to make another pass.   The Captain managed to avoid grounding out by a few feet, and as he was making the turn the man holding the pennant said “I used to spend my summers on Bustins Island!”   This was news, as our son-in-law Andy Pease grew up summers on Bustins, and his mother Annalee maintains a beautiful cottage there overlooking Casco Bay.   Around the moored boats we went and made a successful mooring on the second pass.   By the time the Captain got up the bow, Bill Roy had introduced himself to the Admiral, and said yes, he knew Annalee very well as well as a number of the rest of the Tozier family.   Bill now single-hands a large Jenneau sloop with his cat for company.   Originally from Massachusetts, he has lived in Seattle and California, but now his boat “Providence” is home.   Although a single-hander, he was obviously a very social person, and informed us that “all the cruisers” gathered at

Bill Roy and the Admiral at Buddah's

Bill Roy and the Admiral at Buddah’s

“Buddah’s,” a new place on Spanish Wells since we landed two years ago.   The “happy hour” drinks were $3, which is cheap for anywhere, but especially the Bahamas. So after storing things way and taking a rest after the hard sail, we found ourselves headed ashore with Bill and heading up the hill to Buddah’s.   Sure enough, there was a group of cruisers about, including a family from Montreal that we had met in Little Farmer’s Cay.   The kids were working on cheeseburgers and seemed pretty pleased with what they found.   The Admiral and Captain met a number of others, including a more senior couple from Montreal who had just met the young family from Le Second.   This allowed the Admiral to practice a bit of her French with a few Spanish words mixed in to keep things interesting.   We all ended up ordering burgers and swapped sea stories.   The bar was hopping with a number of locals and a few vacationing tourists mixed in.   As the evening wore on it was evident that the senior lady from Montreal had been enjoying the happy hour.   In fact, she was very jolly when she sidled up next to the Captain and demanded a kiss, with all looking on.  The Captain tried to make her happy with a peck on the cheek, but she was having none of that.   She kept demanding a kiss until she decided the Captain was not going to grant her wish, at least to the extent that she desired, and she pronounced to everyone that the Captain was too shy.   Fortunately, the burgers had been consumed by this point and Bill announced that it was time to head back to the boats before it was too dark.   The Admiral and Captain were happy to take his lead, and staying off the sandbars, we safely made it back to Pathfinder with another sea story in our kit.

 

April 7th – The Admiral was dropped off on shore for a run to the grocery store and to search for the laundry while the Captain stayed busy emptying and then filling the water jugs ashore at the lobster processing plant, where R.O. water could be purchased.   The water, for which Spanish Wells is named, is not the best tasting but it does keep the

Opening Day in Spanish Wells

Opening Day in Spanish Wells

gardens green.   The reverse osmosis (RO) water is desalinated seawater, and is perfect for drinking or any other use.   As written before in the blog, most of the small Bahamian cays depend on RO water.   Lugging the water jugs to the dinghy, motoring out to Pathfinder, hoisting the 5 gallon jugs aboard, then syphoning them to the water tanks, makes one appreciate drinking and bathing water a bit more than you do at home when opening the faucet.   In late morning, the chores were completed and we dropped the mooring pennant and headed for the fuel dock.   We tied up at 1203, only to see the shades pulled in the office. A friendly Yank subsequently informed us that it was lunch hour and the proprietors would be back at 1300.   The friendly fellow was spending time at his vacation home on Harbor Island, which is located on the east side of north Eleuthera, and a place we had visited two years ago.   He was from Connecticut, owned an Alden 44 sloop and had sailed in the Newport-Bermuda race four times.   He had never cruised the Bahamas, so was full of questions for us.   At 1300 the fuel attendant arrived and shortly thereafter we motored the short run to Royal Island harbor and dropped anchor beside Emerald City and Sundance V.   The plans were made for a voyage across the deep water of Northeast Channel to the Berry Cays.

 

April 8th – The Berry Cays, known to all as “The Berries,” is a group of islands that lie about halfway between Grand Bahama to the north and New Providence (home of Nassau) to the south.   To the southwest is the large island of Andros and to the west of the Berries is the Grand Bahama Bank.   So this was a new destination, but first we had a 50-mile run across the deep ocean water of Northwest Channel. The wind was a moderate 10-15 knots, but it was dead astern, which is a hard angle for sailing.   Fortunately Pathfinder is equipped with a “whisker” pole, which allows the jib to be held out on the opposite side from the mainsail and allows the vessel to sail “wing and wing.”   This we did and Pathfinder was happy with the arrangement as we clicked off the miles.   Emerald City

Emerald Spinnaker

Emerald Spinnaker

hoisted their emerald green spinnaker and kept it up hour after hour.   We all arrived at the cut between Devils and Hoffman Cays a little after 1600.   A number of boats were anchored just inside this entrance, but Ross had told us that the best anchorages were to the south.   Unfortunately there was some very shallow water that had to be negotiated first, and it was dead low tide at our arrival.   Since Sundance V had been here before, Ross led the way, hugging a small cay as close as possible as it was very evident by “reading the water” that this is where the deep depths lay.   Soon after rounding the top of the island, Sundance came to a stop and started to drop the anchor.   Ross announced that they were aground, but Pathfinder, with a foot less draft, was free to continue on.   So by watching the water colors for the deepest path we wound our way on and watched the depth sounder readings descend past 5 to 4 and eventually to 3.5, which means we should have been aground, but since the transducer is about 8-10 inches below the waterline, it meant we probably were afloat with 1 to 2 inches to spare.   Since there was just Bahamian sand below us, we didn’t feel too threatened, but it was a relief when we finally reached the

Reading the Water

Reading the Water

designated anchorage off of Devil Cay and dropped the hook in 7 feet of water.   Emerald City draws about 4.5 feet, about halfway between Pathfinder and Sundance V.   That was still too much and they ended up aground too.   Fortunately the rising tide really does lift all boats, and several hours later, Pathfinder was joined at anchor by its buddies.

 

April 9th – There was a bit of surge in our anchorage during the night due to a small reef strewn cut between Devil Cay and another small cay just to the north.   At Ross’s suggestion we wound our way (at half tide this time) to an anchorage off of Little Harbor Cay to our south.   There were no groundings this time and the afternoon was spent exploring the paths and beaches of Little Harbor Cay.   We found a curious and apparently abandoned facility facing the east and the deep water.   There were a number of very sturdy tables and benches under an open-air roof and several small buildings that were obviously used to prepare and serve food.   There were a number of very large plastic tanks that had been used to store water and the down spouts from the roofs of the buildings fed into several of these.   A wooden box was mounted high at one end under the roof and with an electrical connection running to it, it may have been used to hold a video display of some kind.   The buildings all had padlocks, but by the rust on them it was obvious that they had not been entered for a number of years.   There were no other habitations in sight and the only residence we know of is several miles down on the southern end of the island. If only buildings could talk!  Pathfinder’s crew had a decision to make.   It was approaching the middle of April, when we needed to cross back to Florida and start making our way north.   We could sail north to Grand Bahama Island, which would entail another 50-mile open water crossing, and take a marina berth near Freeport and wait for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream.   It appeared there could be an opening early in the next week. The second option was leave the next day, but that would entail a longer voyage by sailing around the southern end of the Berries and crossing the Grand Bahama Bank and then setting a course northwest across the Gulf Stream to Lake Worth (the Palm Beach area) on the Florida Coast.   The total run was 160 miles and the weather on the Gulf Stream was predicted to be mild. Our rough Gulf Stream crossing two years ago taught us to look for the best possible weather window, so the decision was made to depart early the next morning.   One more gathering was held in Pathfinder’s cockpit.   Toasts were made to the successful, if windy cruising season this winter in the Bahamas.   We filled in a large number of new cays and anchorages on our personal chart that had been missed two years ago.   They included Normans, Shroud, Hawksbill, Big Darby, and Lee Stocking Cays in the Exumas.   All of the harbors on Eleuthera were new to us, as well as the Devils-Hoffmans area of the Berries.   We didn’t make it to some of the “Out Islands,” such as Cat, but some year in the future we might be back! So we said our farewells to Ross and Rosemary, as well as Lee and Shelby, although that turned out to be a bit premature.

 

April 10th – Pathfinder’s crew was underway with half tide at 0930 and wound our way back the way we had come in.   With extra water under the keel, and the GPS “bread crumbs” (track that showed the history of our way in) we had no trouble getting back into the deep water.   Sundance V and Emerald City opted to explore more shallow water to the south but the Admiral and Captain were now horses heading for the barn.   The wind stayed east, and as we rounded the southern end of the Berries it was once again, dead astern.   Once again the whisker pole was deployed and we sailed “wing and wing.”   The seas were large enough astern that they caused us to roll and pitch, so it was not a smooth ride.   Via our VHF radio (now using a back-up antenna) we heard that Sundance V and Emerald City had successfully run their shallow route.   A bit later we heard from Lee that he and Shelby had decided to run the Banks and cross the Gulf Stream, so we decided not to rush our Bank crossing in hopes that they would catch up. In the late afternoon Pathfinder crossed through the Northwest Channel and onto the Grand Bahama Bank. The water went from over thousand feet to 15 to 30 feet in about a mile.   Usually the shallow water of the Bank knocks down the seas.   It did diminish the swell but the chop from the easterly sea stayed up and kept us rolling. As it became dark we took down all sail and started to motor, hoping that would improve the motion.   It did a little, but the noise of the engine made it tough for the “off watch” to catch any sleep.   The Admiral and Captain were now taking two-hour stretches at the wheel.   The autopilot that had worked so well on the trip from Bimini to Nassau, now could not hold course with the following seas.   Finally at 2200 the Captain rolled out the jib and shut down the engine.   By tacking downwind (zig-zagging) with just the jib we could sail at 4 to 5 knots across the 60 miles of the Bank and this allowed a chance for Emerald City to catch up.

 

April 11th – Emerald City did catch up in the wee hours of the morning. Our plan was to exit the Bank and into the deep water at daybreak, but the outflowing current off the Banks had other plans.   Even with the engines shut down and reduced sail, we passed to starboard the tall and unlit lighthouse of Great Isaac in the dark, while the reefs named “Hens and Chickens” lay on the port hand.   This is something we would have never done without the aid of GPS. The engines were started and we now aimed for a speed that would bring us to Lake Worth Inlet by the end of the afternoon.   Sea conditions were sloppy to say the least. The wind was light southeast, but there were wave trains from the Banks, Northwest Channel, and the Gulf Stream all converging. We hung on and headed northwest.   About noontime we entered the main axis of the Gulf Stream and saw our speeds shoot up to 8 knots. A few rain showers were about, but nothing threatening, and the crossing was a far cry from the one we experienced with Emerald City on April Fool’s Day, 2013.   At 1400, the first buildings of the Florida Coast hove into sight, and at 1500 we entered the inlet as every imaginable type of motorized craft seemed intent on crossing our bow and sending us the largest wake possible.   It was a Saturday, so not unexpected.   Welcome to FloridaIt still wasn’t appreciated.   Fortunately there is an anchorage just south of the entrance in Lake Worth that is slightly off the beaten track and where the sailboats all seem to gather.   A few of the more rude boat operators came blasting by within feet, but for the most part the anchorage is a bit of an oasis. With the anchor down we made our call to U.S. Customs.   Thanks to pre-registering before our 2013 voyage, our data was still on file and we were able to clear in via the phone. We were able to sail over half of the 160 miles and used approximately 8 gallons of fuel from the time we left the Berry Cays. Lee and Shelby rowed over for a last cockpit gathering and post crossing discussion, but were soon back to Emerald City and bed before the sunset.   The Admiral was asleep by 7:30, but the Captain held fast for another hour. It was a very quiet Saturday night in the Lake Worth anchorage.

 

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Emerald Bay to Rock Sound

Emerald Bay to Rock Sound

 

March 25th – The Admiral and Captain landed back on Great Exuma at 1530, right on schedule.   We had spent a week back in Maine and avoided those pesky snowstorms that have blanketed New England all winter long.   It was chilly at home and our temperature on arrival in Portland at midnight was 70 degrees cooler than it had been when we departed George Town that afternoon.   Each morning in Maine started off in the single digits or low teens.   So much for the start of spring!   The Admiral paid bills and prepared the tax info for the accountant.   Trips were made to Sanford to see Gail’s mom Marjorie, and a very special trip was made to Camden to see Dave’s dad, Bob, where a rendezvous was held with a group of the Witherill clan to celebrate the skipper Bob’s 90th birthday!   We gathered in a private room at the Waterfront Restaurant with a perfect view of Camden Harbor and snow-covered Mount Battie, while the wind whistled from the north and made us happy to be inside.   We all had a wonderful time and stories were told about the good times throughout the years.   Cap’n Bob enjoyed himself so much that he put off his afternoon nap until late in the afternoon! On our arrival back at the George Town airport we found that our planned car rental was not on site, but we found that Mr. Burrows would take us to the Exuma Market then back to Emerald Bay for only a few dollars more. Driving on the left is a challenge enough when you haven’t been flying all day, so we were happy to take the cab and listen to Mr. Burrows tell us about skippering the “D” class sailing sloops at regatta time, which is always the middle of April in George Town. The “D” class, whose boats were about 12 feet in length, no longer races.   No matter what the class, the skipper determines the number of crewmembers taken on board.   In heavy airs, an “A” class boat may take on 12 crewmembers, while in light conditions that may shrink to six.   When sailing to windward in strong winds, a board known as a pry, is slid out on the windward side of the vessel and crew members scramble out as ballast, helping the boat sail as flat (and as fast) as possible.   Each vessel must finish the race with the same crew

Class C Boats - Black Point

Class C Boats – Black Point

that it starts with, so if anyone falls off the pry the boat must be turned around to make a pick up.   All Bahamian racing sloops are to be built of wood, and all sails must be canvas (cotton).   So take that, all of us high priced yachties!   From the photos I’ve seen, nobody has bigger trophies, wider smiles, or more prestige than the winners of Bahamian regattas.   Fortunately the Exuma Market was stocked with fresh provisions (although the Admiral had seen better).   We arrived at the Emerald Bay Marina to find Pathfinder in good shape, but very hot below decks.   We did our best to cool things off, enjoyed our marina shower, and slept with just a sheet.

 

March 26th – Before leaving Emerald Bay for home we had discussed several Bahamian cruising destinations with crews on boats tied up close by.   They were all very enthusiastic about Cat Island, a long and narrow island that lay 50 miles to our northeast.   We were told that people there are the friendliest in the Bahamas, which is saying something in a place where everyone seems to have a smile and a warm greeting.   The highest hill in the Bahamas is on Cat and remarkable Father Jerome, who was also an architect, built a chapel/retirement home known as the Hermitage that we were told was well worth seeing.   A few days before our flight home, we met a couple cruising on a restored wooden “Biloxi Lugger” (small shrimp boat) named “Southern Grace.” The owners hailed from Islesboro, the island directly across from our family cottage in Northport, Maine.   Low and behold George Evans and his wife Shar Piper, had all sorts of connections to us.   For years George owned the boatyard in Marshall Cove, which our cottage faces in West Penobscot Bay.

Southern Grace

Southern Grace

Shar just recently retired from the Islesboro school system and worked with Katie Hall.   They also had a friend, Roger Burke, who knows the Captain’s parents Bob and Jean, as well as the Admiral’s brother Wayne.   The day before we flew home, George and Shar motored away, bound for Cat.   So we had Cat Island on our minds.   There was only one problem.   Cat Island has no protection from westerly and northwesterly winds, thus if westerly’s are in the forecast you need to find another island and there are none close by.   It had been blowing east or southeast for weeks on end, but now that we were back on Pathfinder, a weather front was predicted to blow through in a few days with the first west winds in over a month.   Ours is not to reason why, so with a light southeasterly still in the forecast for this day, we motored out of Emerald Bay and set sail for Little Farmers Cay up the Exuma chain, with hopes that we could still strike out for Cat Island if the southeasterly winds returned after the passage of the weather front. The run into Farmer’s Cay Cut was negotiated.   It had a few interesting tiderips that would look familiar to those cruising Passamaquoddy Bay, but we powered through safely and picked up a mooring for the night off of Little Farmers.

 

March 27th – On rising, we found the wind due south and the humidity sky high.   The weather forecast from Chris Parker was not encouraging for folks who wanted to reach Cat Island. The weather front was predicted to pass through on the 28th, followed by at least three days of northeast winds and Cat is over 50 miles directly northeast. Another weather front was predicted in a week’s time. The Captain flipped his notebook and pen onto the chart table and decided that he better let the winds dictate the destinations. In mid-morning, a family of five motored by in their dinghy. Their sloop hailed from Montreal.   The parents were both teachers on sabbatical and after we discussed the challenges of cruising the Bahamas in a windy winter, they headed for shore to explore the island. We enjoyed Little Farmer’s two years ago so went ashore in the early afternoon.   We had interesting discussions with a number of the locals and decided that the natives of Little Farmer’s had to be just as friendly as those on Cat or Fort Kent, Maine for that matter.

Captain C unloads cargo at Little Farmers Cay

Captain C unloads cargo at Little Farmers Cay

We paid for our mooring at “Ocean Cabin,” a restaurant/bar on the hillside, where we had shared interesting conversations with the owner Terry Bain two years ago.   We decided to walk to the far side of the island where the Admiral had heard about a Thai restaurant.   What we found was Ty’s restaurant, a beautiful place that was only four years old and looked onto Exuma Sound.   Since there were very few cruising boats (only two others at the time) anchored at Little Farmers, and there were no tourists or vacationers about, we had Ty’s to ourselves.   We enjoyed a Kalik and checked out our email with the restaurant’s wifi.   After making arrangements for a fresh grouper dinner, we returned to Pathfinder, making sure we looked both ways before crossing the end of the

Ducking on the Runway

Ducking on the Runway

airport runway that must be crossed to get to Ty’s.   We read and tried to stay cool in the afternoon southerly and took a quick sunshower before heading back ashore for a delicious Bahamian dinner while watching the sun set over the Exuma Banks.

 

March 28th – At 0400 the “pre-frontal boundary” came upon us with flashes of lightning and some heavy showers.   The wind shifted into the northwest.   The morning weather forecast told us that the real weather front was coming at mid-day.   We decided to leave our mooring and put out the “Rocna” anchor that we have come to trust so well this year.   A new coolant reservoir tank was installed since the old one had cracked and was leaking.   The Westerbeke replacement was found on the Internet while at home.   With its feed hose and mounting bracket, it was listed for the bargain price of $50.   The Captain found a generic tank at the auto parts store for $8, but of course it didn’t quite fit the space of the old one.   Such is the perfect engineering of boat engine compartments; there was no other place to mount the tank where it wouldn’t cause an issue with something else. The solution was found by mounting the tank tipped to a 30-degree angle so that the steps to the cockpit still fit and there is clearance for the alternator.   The Admiral has a sign in our family room at home that proclaims “Cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places.”   So true.   The true weather front arrived in the early afternoon with cooler winds right out of the north. After waiting for my hands and feet to warm up back in Maine it was hard to believe I was welcoming a cool north wind!

 

March 29th – The wind had shifted to the north-northeast and although it was still quite brisk (15-20 knots) there was now enough protection from Great Guana Cay that we could get underway and motor the 12 mile run up to Black Point Settlement.   Under the eastern shore of the bight that forms the harbor, we found good protection to anchor.   The

Palm Sunday Admiral

Palm Sunday Admiral

Internet booster found a signal and we had a short FaceTime with Oliver in Boulder, CO.   It is still hard to believe that we can cruise the Bahamas and have a live video of our grandson at the same time!   Maybe that’s a sign that we are getting old.   We took a good long walk ashore, and have now managed to walk on almost every road in the Black Point Settlement, although they can be counted on one hand.   When we took the dinghy back to Pathfinder we found Emerald City and Sundance V anchored close by (an earlier email had given them our location and they sailed down from their anchorage to the north).   We gathered in the City’s cockpit and exchanged stories from the 2 weeks we had gone on our separate ways, and discussed the courses and the islands to see as we worked our way back home.

Black Point Sunset

Black Point Sunset

 

March 30th – The Admiral had laundry and a shower on her mind and the laundry facility at Black Point is first class and provides both.   The Captain managed the fresh water supply on board, and went ashore to fill one of the portable water jugs as well as one of our sun shower bags (a “shower-to-go” as Lee says).   At 1100 all three boats departed on a northwest course with a brisk northeast wind and set all sail for Hawksbill Cay, located at the northern end of the national “Land-Sea Park.”   With a close reach and the perfect jib for the wind, Pathfinder kicked up her heels and took off. Thirty-three miles and five and half hours later we arrived off of a beautiful beach on the north end of Hawksbill.   Although we had to share the anchorage with a mega-yacht that looked more like a lunar settlement condominium, it was a beautiful spot and we had a quiet night.

 

March 31st – Hawksbill has the reputation as being one of the most beautiful islands in the Exumas.   We had it on our list for this voyage, as we had missed it two years ago.   The

One Foot

One Foot

north winds in February meant its anchorages were not safe so we passed it by on the way south, but now it was a consolation prize for missing Cat Island.   A morning hike across the ridge of the cay led us to another spectacular and long Bahamian beach.   Maybe this one is the most beautiful!? The unique treat at Hawksbill, though, is the spectacular section of “dries” on the north end of the island that should be viewed at low tide for

Surf Consultation at Hawksbill

Surf Consultation at Hawksbill

the maximum effect.   It isn’t just the shallow sandy sections that are the view, but the colors of the waters that weave through white sands with spectacular blues, greens, and turquoise to light green and almost white. Deep “rivers” of water run by several rocky outcrops and provide snorkeling opportunities where fish gather by coral heads.   We swam by one section that harbored not only colorful tropical fish, but also a number of larger species that made the hunter/gathers in our group drool.   The fish are lucky they are within the park boundaries where there is a “no take” rule that is enforced.   The colors this bright sunny day were dazzling, and even with sunglasses and brimmed hat, it was almost too bright to take in.   Numerous photos

Hawksbill Dries

Hawksbill Dries

were taken, but none will do the area justice. We returned to our boats and decided to move on to the anchorage at Shroud Cay, three miles away, to make it easier to access the cut into Exuma Sound for the next morning’s departure.   Shroud is made of a series of mangrove islands that are laced with creeks leading to the ocean side of the land.   We had run up one of the creeks back in mid-February when we were staying at Normans Cay.   Another creek beckoned just off our current anchorage, so Lee and Shelby picked us up and we wound our way through the creeks, avoiding shallows and watching for aquatic critters that made this their home.   Eventually we came out on the bright blue

Admiral in Turquoise

Admiral in Turquoise

of Exuma Sound with more white sand beaches all to ourselves.   We took a different route back and found ourselves on Exuma Bank around a point from the anchorage.   Back on Pathfinder we gazed out on the western horizon, toasted our last Exuma sunset, and were rewarded with a brief but real green flash.

 

April 1st – Two years ago today, we made a Gulf Stream crossing with Emerald City that will never to be forgotten due to high winds, big seas, thunder squalls, and a waterspout.   Today we were voyaging across the deep waters of Exuma Sound with Emerald City and Sundance V, but conditions could not have been more different.   There was no sailing to be had with the wind east-northeast and our destination being the southern tip of the large island of Eleuthera.   Winds stayed light and the seas were

Shroud Cay Exploration

Shroud Cay Exploration

nothing to speak of, so we motored the 30 miles to the Cape Eleuthera Resort where we topped off our fuel tank.   As we came off the deep water of the Sound and onto the banks we were startled to clearly see the bottom at a depth of 55 feet.   We have grown used to great visibility in Bahamian waters but this was the deepest we had seen the bottom so clearly.   The resort was beautiful, but appeared only to be half full, if that, and this is their busiest time of year.   We continued on through the crystal clear waters and were noticing that we seemed to be following a communications cable along the bottom for a ways, in waters 15 feet deep.   In the mid-afternoon we arrived at “Rock Sound,” a very well protected harbor on the southwest coast of Eleuthera.   It is actually a small bay, but boaters can find protection from winds of all directions if they are willing to move their anchors to the most protected shore when the wind shifts.   A small settlement lies on the eastern shore and we anchored among a dozen so other boats.   A walk about town gave us the lay of the land and we could see the food booths being set up for the settlement’s “Homecoming” festival that runs

Cleaning for the Fish Fry

Cleaning for the Fish Fry

through Easter weekend.   A large quantity of fish was being cleaned on the town dock to ensure there would be enough for a good-sized fish fry. The local children and laughing gulls were each adding to the excitement and anticipation.   On the north side of town we found a restaurant named “Wild Orchids” with a perfect location, looking west across Rock Sound Harbor.   It had been built with grand expectations, judging by the elevated bar almost on the harbor and the planted coconut palms.   Reading reviews, “Wild Orchid” is at least the third attempt to make a successful restaurant business on this spot.   Looking over the menu, we promised to return later that evening, but did not know exactly what kind of dining experience we would find. Grand locations and restaurant designs are no indication of the meal one will receive, but in this case the feast was fit for the location.   Most of us ordered the fresh grouper, fixed in a variety of ways.   The Admiral pronounced the conch stew and salad to be first rate.   Wild Orchids gets two thumbs up if you are ever on the island of Eleuthera!   Back on board

Wild Orchid Sunset

Wild Orchid Sunset

Pathfinder the smoke from the cooking fires outside the food shacks, descended upon the crew.   It was pungent, and with the bright lights and shouts from the shore, it was clear that the festival was starting in fine style.

 

 

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Emerald Bay to George Town and Return

Emerald Bay to George Town and Return

 

March 3rd – We enjoyed our first full day of marina amenities with showers and laundry. Fresh water was available so the boat received a proper scrubbing and wash down– our ports had a salt free appearance for the first time in a few weeks.   The Captain met Peter Dent of Gloucester aboard his Sabre 42 “Salmagal.”   Peter is the owner of Browns

Emerald Bay Marina

Emerald Bay Marina

Shipyard in Gloucester and we have a few mutual acquaintances.   Peter’s yard fitted out a sloop named “Boston Light” that later became Jim Becker’s “Flying White,” upon which an adventure was had by the Captain, sailing to the Virgin Islands in November 2013.   In the late afternoon, we took a walk on the beach, past the “Sandals” resort and to a corner of the beach protected from the southeast winds.   The swimming was great and it was a treat to have a fresh water shower back at the marina!

 

March 4th – The Admiral arranged for a van rental and by 0900 we were joined by Ross, Rosemary, Lee and Shelby and set out on a tour of Great Exuma Island.   Bahamians drive on the left hand side of the road and Ross was comfortable in the driver’s seat after experiences driving in Australia and the UK.   What he didn’t tell us was that he was a “spirited” driver.   The roads of Great Exuma are not always in the best of shape and there are many twists and bends.   As a result, the Admiral almost wore out a hole in the floor of the front passenger seat while stomping on an imaginary brake.   The rest of us hung on. There were stops at several “historical” sites that were mostly old tombs or foundations

Termite Nest on Loyalist Ruins

Termite Nest on Loyalist Ruins

from the first Loyalist settlers.   A stop was made in George Town, the largest community in all the Exumas.   It is also the harbor with the largest concentration of cruising boats in all of the Bahamas, with 300 or so vessels anchored somewhere in the large and varied waterway that is sheltered by Stocking Island to the east.   The week before was the George Town Cruisers Regatta and we heard that up to 500 boats had been in various parts of what is called “Elizabeth Harbor” on the charts. So even though our boats were not in George Town, we fit in with the numerous cruisers that mingled easily with the local Bahamians.   The businesses of the town circle the small Lake Victoria (more of a pond) that is connected to the harbor by a very small cut with a bridge overhead.   We walked to various shops while Lee looked for parts for his water pump.   It was too early for lunch so we piled back into the van and continued our trip south, making our way to Williams Town on Little Exuma Island.   We had a great view of the waters from a hill with a “Doric Pillar” that was built as a navigational aid to guide ships to the salt pond located inshore from the pillar.   From the hill, the salt pond’s divisions that marked the various pans for evaporation could still be seen beneath the water’s surface.   Williams Town is a very small settlement and we drove to the end of the road, which was

View from Little Exuma

View from Little Exuma

also the southern most point of our travels. This was just below the Tropic of Cancer line, which marks the official start of the “tropics.”   Turning around, we drove a short distance to a colorful restaurant on the beach named “Santanas.” Another cruiser had recommended this spot and we were in for treat.   The meal was more of a dinner than lunch, and all ordered the Bahamian lobster, except for the Captain who went for the grouper.   The lobster and fish were as fresh as could be and cooked to perfection.   The meal came with Bahamian peas and rice, coleslaw, and a lime-hot pepper sauce that was the perfect addition for the fish and lobster.   It was all washed down with a cold Kalik. We came away proclaiming it one of the best meals of our trips to the Bahamas.   On the drive north we stopped at “Tropic of Cancer Beach” where the latitude line of the

Gathering at Santana's

Gathering at Santana’s

tropics supposedly runs.   Since the actual Tropic of Cancer fluctuates from year to year (depending on the northern most declination of the sun, which also varies) the Beach may not be right on the line at present, but there was no denying the perfect sand and stunning colors of the water.   We continued back to George Town where fresh provisions were obtained and then it was back to Emerald Bay with Ross taking us on several detours to show us a failed development where a relative of his owns a lot.   We felt as if we had been on “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” (for you “Wind in the Willows” fans) but we arrived safe and sound back at the marina.

 

Kite Surfing in Elizabeth Harbor

Kite Surfing in Elizabeth Harbor

March 5th – As if we hadn’t had enough of the Bahamian roads, all of us excepting Lee headed north after early morning rain squalls had cleared.   Ross’s driving remained spirited after a night’s sleep, so we hung on until we arrived at the northern most Great Exuma settlement, Barreterre (pronounced by some as Barry Terry).   We were able to look out at the cays we had wound our way through earlier in the week, as well as Rat Cay Cut, where we transited out onto the Exuma Sound.   There was still of spray shooting up on the outlying reefs, indicating the trade winds from the east were piling up the waves.   Once again the turquoises, blues, and greens of the water captured our eyes. There wasn’t a lot in Barreterre, but there are several companies that offer highspeed motorboat rides north so folks can see the waterways, iguanas, and other sights at a much faster clip than is done aboard Pathfinder.   We returned back to the marina by 1000 to turn in the van rental.   The rest of the day was spent completing odd jobs and a swim was taken at the beach south of the Sandals resort.

Barreterre

Barreterre

 

March 6th – The trade winds kept up the pace but the forecast for the next day promised a break. We all had a late breakfast at the Grand Isles Resort, then continued to complete small jobs on the boats that had been on the list for some time.   Swimming and a gathering in Pathfinder’s cockpit completed the day.

 

March 7th – The Admiral was up early and filled up the fresh water tanks before breakfast.   We took on fuel and were underway by 0930.   Winds were light on Exuma Sound, but the distance to George Town was short, so we set our sails and turned off the engine.   We arrived at Conch Cay Cut by noon, and following our chart and GPS carefully, we negotiated the several dogleg turns to follow the deeper water into Elizabeth Harbor.   Stocking Island runs over 3.5 miles from northwest to southeast forming the protection of the harbor between it and Great Exuma Island.   As I wrote earlier, this harbor is host to the largest concentration of cruising boats in the Bahamas, but the boats are spread out.   The first anchorage is off a beach with the highest bluffs of Stocking as a backdrop.   There is an old tall and leaning monument at the top of the bluff.   The anchorage goes by two names: one is “Monument Beach” and the other is “Hamburger Beach” for a now defunct food shack that is still near the beach.   As one continues on down Elizabeth Harbor the next anchorage is the largest.   A cove leads to three basins where perfect protection can be had from the wind from all directions.   The basins are filled with moorings that are available for rent, but at this time of year they are always full.   The cove leading to the basins is filled with moored boats and just outside the cove there are boats at anchor.   There are two small resorts at the head of the cove, but on the point there is a large, flat, sandy area.   This is where volleyball nets are set up along with numerous large picnic tables.   A small beach bar/restaurant named “Chat N’Chill” is located here and this is the hub of the George Town cruising community.   Volleyball leagues, craft workshops, card games, kids activities, classes, Sunday morning church services, yoga, and whatever else you can think of, is organized and happens here.   For this reason, the beach off Chat N’Chill is the most popular spot.   About a half mile further down Stocking Island is our favorite anchorage, named “Sand Dollar Beach.” It is much quieter than Chat N’Chill, has a beautiful crescent beach and a hiking trail that leads over to the large beach on the east side of Stocking as well as trails to several lookout points.   On the west side of Elizabeth Harbor is a group of small islands that can be anchored behind if one follows a narrow channel and “reads” the water carefully.   The anchorage is known as “Red Shanks” and boats that stay here are completely out of sight from the main anchorages off Stocking Island. Just to the northwest of these islands is Kidd Cove that is the main anchorage for boats that want to be as close as possible to the town of George Town. This anchorage can be rough as there is a large fetch to the easterly trade winds. Boats tend to stay here for a short while for crew shopping, then move back to one of the other anchorages, but some are here no matter what direction the winds blow.   Scattered about Elizabeth Harbor are

Sand Dollar Anchorage

Sand Dollar Anchorage

boats anchored “out in the middle” that for whatever reason, their owners do not mind being in the roughest part of the anchorage.   Many just want to be as far away from other boats as possible.   One of the reasons that George Town is popular with the cruisers is that it has relatively deep channels that were dredged by the U.S. Navy during World War II.   George Town was used as a base for seaplanes.   After anchoring, the Captain and Admiral took a trip ashore for a walk across to the long beach that runs up the entire east side of Stocking.   This is one of the most beautiful islands in the Bahamas and it was great to be on it once again.

 

Sand Dollar Rainbow

Sand Dollar Rainbow

March 8th – The Captain changed out his primary and fuel lift pump fuel filters before the day became too warm and was happy to see that both were as clean as a whistle.   There has been no more problem with the engine slowing down due to fuel issues since the run across the Grand Bahama Bank. Ross and Rosemary opted to shift Sundance V to the anchorage near Monument Beach since the continuing strong trade winds were going to make it more comfortable anchorage.   The Captain thought it would be wise to follow but there were others, who will remain nameless, who did not want to leave their favorite anchorage at Sand Dollar.   Captains sometimes find that keeping Admirals happy is a wise move, especially if her good friends are staying put.   The Captain and Admiral visited a Bristol 41, hailing from Boothbay, after a hike ashore.   Ed Easter and Elizabeth Meadows have been living aboard for two years and are bound for the southern Caribbean.   The Captain remembered seeing their boat in the Salty Dog rally last year and we swapped a few sea stories about the gale off of Cape Hatteras.   With only the two of them, plus their dog, they had quite an ordeal but made it to the Virgin Islands safely, despite engine troubles.   In the afternoon we joined Lee and Shelby for a low tide walk of the sand flats off the south end of Stocking Island.   Wading in inches of water across large expanses of

Walking the "Dries"

Walking the “Dries”

sand we observed the unique wave patterns and found hundreds of tiny snails or possibly hermit crabs, clustered together along the shore that came alive when scooped up in a hand.   Another salt-water bath with a quick rinse of fresh completed another beautiful day.

 

Mini-Crustacean Gathering

Mini-Crustacean Gathering

March 9th – The winds howled in the night, but eased a bit at daylight so a decision was made to take Pathfinder over to Kidd Cove to visit the town for supplies.   Lee and Shelby joined us and soon we were anchored in the choppy waters off of George Town.   The dinghy ride in with following waves was fine, but the Captain was wondering about the return trip, especially under the bridge that leads into small “Lake Victoria.”   An east wind against an ebb tide can cause viscous chop under the bridge as the Captain found out to his chagrin two years ago.   Inside the Lake, all was calm.   Errands were quickly done, but the fresh produce bins of the Exuma Market were completely empty.   The supply boat had arrived but the shelves

Pathfinder's Dinghy on the Way back from Lake Victoria

Pathfinder’s Dinghy on the Way back from Lake Victoria

weren’t to be stocked until afternoon.   The Captain made two trips to ferry his passengers back to Pathfinder.   It was a very wet trip, but all made it aboard safely and we returned to the Sand Dollar anchorage. In the afternoon a dinghy trip was made to the Chat N’Chill for conch salads for some, and a rendezvous with Ross and Rosemary.   The place was hopping, but quieted down by late afternoon.   The young couple who had sailed their 25-foot Cape Dory to George Town from Delaware impressed us. They had it anchored right off the beach-an advantage of having a small boat.

 

March 10th – After cleaning chores were complete in the morning, Shelby rowed over to inform us of plans for the day.   She and Lee had found a map on the internet that showed the trails of Stocking Island and there were a number that we hadn’t hiked. This needed to be rectified today!   We rode in Emerald City’s dinghy, “The Bus” to a beach just north of Chat N’Chill and found a trail that seemed intent on bringing us as close as possible to numerous poison wood trees. We found the trail to Monument Beach and were joined by Rosemary. Continuing north we found another perfect beach and continuing on we came upon a gathering spot built by industrious cruisers back in 2002.   In the shade of the pine trees there was a thatched roof covering numerous benches, a bar, and was surrounded by a beautifully made stonewall.   This was obviously put together by some talented folks!

Yacht Club on Stocking Beach

Yacht Club on Stocking Beach

Out on the beach the sun was blazing, so we were soon in the water for a swim and cool down.   The hike then continued and we crossed the island to the east side beach, before heading back to the Monument side where Ross picked us up in the dinghy and brought us all to Sundance V’s cockpit for snacks and beverages.   The journey back to Sand Dollar Beach in “The Bus” was a very wet ride against the easterly wind and chop, but we were soon in the water again, soaping up, and rinsing off the sunscreen while the east wind moaned in the rigging.

 

March 11th -15th – With even stronger winds in the forecast, Emerald City and Pathfinder eventually shifted to the anchorage off of Monument Beach and found the motion much better, just as Ross and Rosemary had told us it would be.   We continued to hike the Stocking Island trails and beaches, and made sure to have a swim call each day. Finally on the 15th the winds dropped off and the exodus out of George Town was a steady parade of boats starting at first light. Some were heading north, others south. Many of the south bounders have destinations in the Caribbean. This was the day we said good-bye to Emerald City and Sundance V.   Both boats are headed back up the Exuma Chain, while Pathfinder enjoyed a leisurely sail back to Emerald Bay.   Pathfinder will remain here while the Captain and Admiral make a trip back to Maine to be sure there is really as much snow as everyone has been saying.   We will also give the Admiral’s mom, Marjorie Davis a hug, and celebrate Skipper Bob Witherill’s 90th birthday with his first mate Jean and other family members.   We will be back in the Bahamas in late March and hope the winds allow us to reach a few more new destinations before starting the journey north.   Stay tuned!

 

 

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Black Point to Emerald Bay

Black Point to Emerald Bay

 (pictures are thumbnails – double-click to expand the image)

February 22nd – The winds finally started to diminish during the night and the morning was fairly quiet at the Black Point anchorage.   Thanks to fairly strong Wi-Fi being provided by the Black Point laundry, we were able to catch up on emails, world news, post a blog and other things that we take for granted in the lands of high speed broadband.   The biggest treat of all was a “Face Time” connection to Boulder, CO in which the Admiral did everything but climb through the computer in order to give Oliver a hug.   We noticed quite a few changes including many smiles, especially when he was placed under a mobile with animal characters and the sounds of various birds chirping.   Colin and Jaime seemed to be managing well as new parents: lots of work, with little sleep, but plenty of rewards. An expedition was mounted ashore toward the northern point of Great Guana Cay (on which Black Point Settlement is located) along a road that leads to a creek, just off of Dotham Cut (the passage to the sea from the Banks between the islands).   Two years ago we had to wade through this creek after our hike to the cliffs named “White Horses,” trying to find a shortcut to the road we now hiked in on.   Lee was reading a book titled “Out Island Doctor,” a great story that we recommend whether you have been to the Bahamas or not.   The doctor brought his sailboat into this creek at Black Point in the 1950’s to ride

Creek at Black Point

Creek at Black Point

out a storm.   Much discussion has occurred amongst the skippers as to whether our boats would have enough depth to get into this spot, but a wreck on the chart in the center of the small anchorage has given us pause (or an excuse!).   When we finally reached the creek, we were surprised to find a small dock under construction with a beautiful, 30 foot or so, schooner riding peacefully at a mooring.   A small scooter was parked nearby, but there was no sign of any home building going on.   Somebody had decided that this was his or her favorite spot and was beginning to stake a claim. We made the hot dusty walk back to town and found that our weather was turning quite warm for the first time in weeks.   A swim with salt-water soap (known as liquid “Joy” to you all) and a quick rinse under the sun shower made for a great ending to the day.

Black Point Sunset

Black Point Sunset

 

February 23rd – The day dawned with very light airs, the first we had experienced since arriving at Bimini on January 30th. This was a day with a list of shopping to be accomplished and we made the short motor to Staniel Cay.   Our propane tank for the dinghy outboard motor needed filling, so we anchored near the shore and took the dinghy to the Isles General Store where the tank was dropped off and a selection of produce purchased.   It is always hit or miss at the island stores, depending on the schedule of the supply boat.   We found lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, and a number of other items to keep us away from the canned veggies. We took the dinghy back to the boat, pulled up the anchor and motored to the fuel dock where slack tide was scheduled for late morning.   A very strong current runs through the channel at Staniel Cay and the fuel dock is a high-sided affair, set up more for mega yachts then 34-foot sailboats.   It is reminiscent of tying up to dock in down east Maine when the tide is out.  Unfortunately a very large mega yacht was already alongside and obviously taking on hundreds if not thousands of gallons of fuel.   We patiently motored back and forth in the channel, keeping our spot in line as several other vessels were also looking to fuel up.   After almost an hour it was finally our turn and we took on a whopping 8.3 gallons of diesel!   I’m sure they were impressed at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club (what we would call a marina).   More important to Pathfinder’s crew was the 48 gallons of fresh water that we took on at 40 cents a gallon.   We returned to the anchorage to wait for the propane bottle.   Calls to the store indicated that things were busy and the bottle may or may not have been filled.   The Captain took the dinghy to the store and found a gentleman ‘out back’ filling the small tanks from 100 lb. propane bottles.   A lady, who was the proprietor of the store, chased the Captain away, telling him it was not a place to be in case something “happened.”   Nonetheless, the gentleman understood which tank the Captain was waiting for and filled that bottle next, allowing Pathfinder to get underway for the anchorage several miles away at Big Majors Spot.   A swim cooled things off, and then we watched with the binoculars as Lee and Shelby took their dinghy to the “pig beach” where the swimming pigs come down for a treat.   One very large hog lived up to its name, and got all the garbage scraps that were offered.

 

February 24th – Light winds continued today and Pathfinder was underway with Emerald City and Sundance at 0800.   We braved the very narrow channel between Fowl Cay and

Fowl Cay Cut

Fowl Cay Cut

Big Majors, where the distance between the two islands is so narrow that catamarans with lots of beam are advised not to use it.   The tidal current currant ran hard but we passed through without any trouble.   For those of you looking for a high-end resort with a first class restaurant, Fowl Cay may be your place.   Big Majors Spot is a much larger island but without development and the pigs, chickens, and roosters find it to be their place. As we continued out toward Big Rock Cut and out onto Exuma Sound, we passed by a sailboat at anchor that wins our prize for the best-named boat in the Bahamas: “Ever After.”   Light winds and very low swells were present on the deep water of the Sound.   Emerald City and Sundance set their course along the shelf where the depths start to drop off so the crews could trail fishing lines.   There was some brief excitement on Emerald City until a plastic bag was brought to the surface.   Pathfinder stayed a bit closer to shore to watch the scenery as Staniel Cay, Bitter Guana, Great Guana, Little Farmers and Big Farmers Cays all slipped by.   The eastern

Shallow Water on the Banks

Shallow Water on the Banks

shorelines were forbidding with strong jagged limestone cliffs with only a few pocket beaches to break things up.   About noon we returned to the Exuma Bank after entering Galliot Cut and motored past the west side of Cave Cay.   There is a small marina here in a pocket of the island but how it can ever survive financially is anybody’s guess.   It would be a good place to ride out a severe storm.   We wound our way past sand bores and corals and the colors of the water became so brilliant, varied, and clear that they almost defied description.   The next cay on our port hand was Musha Cay, owned by the magician David Copperfield.   It has been developed into an extremely high-end resort for the rich and famous.   We later heard from one of the owner’s of Little Darby Cay that Bill Gates had spent a birthday on Musha Cay and brought in Jimmy Buffet to sing.   If you are interested, the entire island can be rented for a week for yourself and 19 guests for a mere $300,000.   The channel continued to wind, but by “reading” the watercolors, using the Explorer Chartbook and confirming it all with the GPS chart plotter, we continued on without trouble.   Rudder Cut Cay was the next island we passed.   It is long and beautiful with a number of protected anchorages but large “No Trespassing” signs on shore.   The final passage wound around rocky islets and coral heads into the protected cover between Big and Little Darby Islands.   Both islands are private so any shore expeditions are by invitation only.   Fortunately the waters are all unrestricted and we found a great snorkel reef close to the anchorage.   With numerous fish and colorful coral, it was a great spot to linger in the 77-degree water.   The Captain was

Swimming with a Spotted Eagle Ray

Swimming with a Spotted Eagle Ray

enjoying all of this when Shelby tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he knew that he had been swimming beside a very large ray?!   Such is the tunnel vision of a facemask.   The Captain wheeled about in time to see the large spotted eagle ray swim by a few feet away, pulling a tail at least four feet long behind it.   Without concern, the ray “flew” by and off to an unknown destination.

 

February 25th – Despite the harsh soil, most of the large and even the smaller cays of the Bahamas have had humans in residence at one time or another.   Big Darby currently has nobody living on it, but at the top of the hill sits the remains of what was once a large estate.   According to Steve Pavlidis, author of the Exuma Guide, the estate was built in 1939 and named “The Castle.”   The owner built a first class radio room and machine shop, planted 20,000 coconut palms, and brought in herds of cattle, goats, and sheep.   He built a large concrete dock and dredged a channel in the narrow slot between Big and Little Darby.   The dock was not really for his purposes, however.   It became known that he was a Nazi sympathizer and rumors surfaced that the dock was to allow U-Boats to enter and tie up.   This probably never happened as the approach channel was still too narrow but stories were told that he brought supplies to U-Boats out on Exuma Sound.   He was eventually asked to leave the islands.   Very few coconut palms are now seen on the island, and undoubtedly the hurricanes wiped out much of what was here. Ross picked up Lee and the Captain for a fishing trip to a few outlying cays named the “Pimlicos” that lie southwest of the Darby Islands and are surrounded by numerous sand bores.   With his 15-horse

Hopeful Fishermen

Hopeful Fishermen

outboard on the 12-foot inflatable, it was a fairly quick trip.   Ross has done spear fishing for years in the Bahamas and this was one of his favorite spots so expectations were high.   Unfortunately, the main reef that he liked to fish had too much current to give any chance of success of chasing down prey, so we moved on to several other islands and reefs.   Much to our disappointment, almost all the reefs we found were dying and covered with algae.   In this condition they support very few fish, and those that we did see were small.   It was very discouraging to see one coral head after another that had become a victim of what a scientist at the Darby Research Center told us was a combination of higher water temperatures and intense UV exposure.   This is a problem all over the Bahamas and tropical regions of the world.   Ross said that he had fished some of these reefs successfully only a few years ago.   We returned to the boats to find all the admirals had a great morning snorkeling about the local reef.   After lunch we set off with Ross and Rosemary in the search of a manmade underwater exhibit.   Close to the shore and under the water off Rudder Cut Cay is a sculpture placed by David Copperfield, probably to give his guests a special destination, as if the natural wonders of the area were not enough.   Thanks to a latitude and longitude given by the “Waterway Guide” we had a general idea of where to look.   We zigzagged across the cove but could see nothing on the bottom that looked out of place.   Finally the Admiral pointed out a dark spot that looked like a coral head, but when we checked it out with the glass bottom bucket there it was: a sculpture of a full size piano with a mermaid sitting on the bottom looking wistfully up at the key board.   It was located in over 10 feet of water but we jumped over the side with the snorkel gear and the underwater camera to have a better look.   With a current starting to be felt it was a workout to stay in place and to reach all angles of

The Mermaid and the Piano

The Mermaid and the Piano

viewing but it was a unique experience.   A fish swam over the keyboard but the wind and waves were all that could be heard.   Back to our cove at the Darby’s we found three other boats at anchor.   Chatting with the owners we found they all had years and years of Bahamian cruising experience.   John, the single-hander on a J-37 said he had been coming to the Bahamas for 51 years!   John knew the scientists based at the Little Darby Research Station and organized a gathering ashore for all of us.   The “Station” is actually a small cottage that the scientists and volunteers use as a base and where they can conduct experiments. They are affiliated with the University of Miami.   We enjoyed the evening and were educated about the coral and pre-coral reef formations named stromatalites that were some of the first life on earth for approximately 80% of the earth’s history.

 

February 26th –A strong south wind was in the forecast but it took its time in arriving.   What had arrived was a tropical feeling to the air and it was hot if you were not in the shade.   A dinghy trip was made to the west side of Big Darby to walk its only sandy beach.   A path ventured inland, but the heat and poisonwood trees made it less than a desired walk, so we headed back to the big boats.   In the afternoon a snorkel “drift dive” was attempted across from Rudder Cut Cay.   A drift dive is where you enter the water with your snorkel gear on and hang onto a rope from the dinghy, allowing the current to carry you along.   By the time we arrived the south wind had increased and was opposed to the current making conditions too rough.   We tried to find the mermaid and the piano again to show Shelby and Lee but the waves made locating the underwater sight too difficult to find.   Success was had back at our local reef near the anchorage.   In my unscientific opinion. the shade of an overhanging rock may be helping in keeping this reef vibrant. The Admiral made a wonderful chicken-curry pasta salad and the crews of Sundance V and Emerald City joined us for great time under starlit skies in the cockpit.

 

February 27th – We departed at 0815 with our traveling companions and proceeded out on Exuma Sound to find sloppy seas and light winds dead ahead.   We didn’t have far to go, as our next destination was only 8 miles down the island chain.   Emerald City and Sundance wetted lines but had no luck as they trolled their lures along the shelf between the deep water and bank.   At 1030 we entered Adderly Cut and wound our way around the

Welcome to Lee Stocking Island mon

Welcome to Lee Stocking Island mon

northwest end of Lee Stocking Island.   A lone dolphin welcomed us by riding our bow wave and we proceeded to a small mooring field located just off the abandoned Caribbean Marine Research Center.   We decided to pick up a mooring and check it out with the glass bottom bucket.   The moorings had been installed over two years ago, just before the Center closed its doors.   The scientist, Eric, whom we met at Darby Island, had been the person who installed the moorings and could vouch for their quality at the time of installation but after 2 plus years we wanted to see for ourselves.   Since marine growth in the Bahamas is not the same as on the Coast of Maine, a quick look with the bucket revealed stainless steel fittings and rope all appearing in great shape.   Lee was going to snorkel for a look at his but a large shark sitting under his boat discouraged him for some reason.   It was probably only a nurse shark but one can’t be too careful!   In another attempt at a drift dive we took a long dinghy ride to the north to check out a reef next to Normans Pond Cay.   We didn’t do much drifting but the reef had numerous fish of vibrant colors.   Unfortunately there were signs of algae taking over parts of the reef.   We made a stop at Leaf Cay to see the pink iguanas that we had checked out two years ago.   They were still there in large

Dinghy and Friends on Leaf Cay

Dinghy and Friends on Leaf Cay

numbers and disappointed once again at our lack of handouts.   The tour boats from Great Exuma would be back the next morning and undoubtedly would have breakfast.   Back on the mooring the Captain noticed a boat had arrived with a hailing port of Wiscasset, Maine.   Taking the dinghy over he met Dave Lieser and Suzy Hurwitz.   Suzy had been the nurse at the Greely Middle School for seven years and had mutual acquaintances. The Admiral didn’t want to miss out on the conversation and swam from Pathfinder to say hello.   As she arrived Dave told her that she was brave because he had seen a hammerhead shark under his boat when he arrived.   Although she sometimes has trouble getting into the dinghy after a snorkeling expedition, this time she had no troubles at all.   The Captain suspects it was probably only a nurse shark but one can’t be too careful!

Lee Stocking Sunset

Lee Stocking Sunset

 

February 28th – Although our anchorage should have provided enough lee from the forecasted easterlies, we had a very bouncy night with the currently holding the boats beam to seas funneling in from the south.   A decision had to be made on whether to charge off for George Town and the laundry and fresh veggies that it would provide. The predicted weather for the rest of the week was for very strong easterlies but today they were suppose to ease off a bit.   The trouble was we had not had a chance to explore Lee Stocking.   There were several hikes to take and gorgeous beaches to check out.   So we made the decision to remain, as did Sundance V and Emerald City.   The Captain and Admiral hitched a ride in Lee and Rosemary’s fast dinghy while Lee and Shelby took “The Bus.”   We stopped at a gorgeous beach with a few swaying coconut palms at the water’s edge, giving it a “South Pacific” feel.   A trail led to Perry’s Peak, which at a whopping 123 feet makes it the highest spot in the Exuma Island Chain!   The view was great.   After decompressing and changing oxygen tanks we made the arduous descent in about 15 minutes.   From this point we motored south to a sand bore at the south end of Lee Stocking.   It was low tide, but unfortunately this was a “high” low so the flats did not dry out as they would on a normal low tide thus we ended up just wading in the sand for a bit.   We arrived back at the big boats by lunchtime to avoid the heat of the day, which was starting to become very noticeable (yes, I know it is hard for everyone in Maine to read that with any sympathy at all). All boats were moved off the moorings to the anchorage closer to shore to avoid the chop of the Bank and to have more of a lee in the increasing easterly winds. There was an immediate improvement. In the late afternoon we all headed ashore to walk about the buildings of the now defunct Caribbean Marine Research Center.   Since it had only been closed for about 2 ½ years, and Ross had been given a tour in the recent past, he was able to point out the various buildings and tanks and explain their uses.   In one building we peered through the windows and saw a diving decompression chamber.   Ross says it is one of the two located in all of the Bahamas, but would need overhauling and recertification at this point.   A Mr. Perry who was a Florida newspaper businessman started the Research Center.   He had a variety of interests and the waters of the Bahamas and Caribbean were high on his list.   In most recent years the Center was affiliated with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) as well as universities in Florida, South Carolina, Virginia and Oregon. Ross met scientists from Australia when he took a tour. We have heard various stories on why the Center closed.   It would seem that research in our changing ocean waters would be worthy of supporting, but obviously the funding dried up.   The U.S. Congress cut funding and, according to Eric whom we met at the small Darby research center, the Perry family did not support it to the same level as it did when Mr. Perry was alive.   The long and the short of it is the Center is no more. After two years of sitting empty, the numerous buildings and residences are showing signs of decay.   Rumor has it that a Russian billionaire has purchased the entire island.   Access to the island may be limited or impossible in the future.

 

March 1st – The easterlies blew hard during the night but our anchorage was secure. Another hike was taken in the morning that led past the airstrip to several beaches on the eastern side of the island.   We were surprised to see a catamaran braving the Adderly Cut

Brave (or foolish) Cat in Adderly Cut

Brave (or foolish) Cat in Adderly Cut

with rollers and surf crashing all around.   With the ebb current against the incoming sea it must have been a wild ride but the cat made it through safely, then rolled out a jib and headed north. We were back aboard to avoid the high sun of mid-day.   In the afternoon we took the dinghies on a short trip to the swaying palms of “Coconut Beach” where we swam and discussed the weather forecasts.   The easterly trades have established themselves in the southern Exumas with 15-20 knots a daily event.   This means any voyage to the southeast is a bash to windward and puts a damper on cruising plans to the “Out Islands” such as Long, Cat, Conception, and Rum Cay.   A slight easing was forecasted for tomorrow and the Captain was all for taking advantage of it. Sundance V and Emerald City had their sights on a possible window later in the week.

 

March 2nd – The morning weather from Chris Parker is a “must listen” to event each morning with the high winds of this winter, and all boats (at least those that want to move) have their single-side band frequencies tuned in at 0630 each morning.   A week or so ago, Chris forecasted more settled weather, but that turned out to be more of a wish.   In a reversal of fortune, the further north one lies in the Bahama chain, the more moderate the winds.   This would be a great time to be in the Abacos, but we are a long way from there.   With no moderation forecasted for later in the week, Ross and Lee decided to join the Captain and Admiral for a joy ride out on the Sound today.   To reach ports on Great Exuma a trip off the protected waters of the Banks and into the ocean waters of the Sound is required.   With the relatively shallow drafts of Pathfinder (4’), Emerald City (4.5’), and Sundance V (5’) we could play the tide a bit and sneak across the shallows on the Bank side for another 5 miles.   This we did, with Pathfinder elected to be in the lead with the shallower draft, presumably ready to give warning to the others if the depth sounder showed a depth approaching 5 feet!   Clouds and a few squalls were in the vicinity when we got underway, and thanks to the Explorer Charts on our GPS plotter, we never found a depth of less than 6 feet. At Rat Cay Cut there was a brisk wind and quite a surge coming in from the ocean, with a few breakers at the Cut entrance.   We anchored for an hour to allow the ebb current to ease.   The breakers disappeared, so we hauled anchors, hoisted reefed mainsails and motored through the Cut.   We had a wild ride for a few minutes, but that settled down into a slog with the wind only 10-20 degrees off the port bow.   As expected, it was a rough trip and we decided not to prolong it by trying to sail to windward so the motors were our main propulsion.   There were only two possible destinations: the first was the Emerald Bay Marina about eleven miles down the coast and the second was the large harbor of George Town, 22 miles away.   Sundance V has had great stays at Emerald Bay and since the slips were cheap and it was the closest harbor, it was an easy choice.   By early afternoon we hung on as we charged into the marina entrance with surging seas.   As soon as we were inside the marina, the water became flat calm and we proceeded to our floating finger dock.   Emerald Bay is a first class marina, and probably one of the best in the Bahamas.   With dockage rates of $1 per foot, it is a bargain.   In fact if you want a slip that does not have any water supply the rate is $0.50 per foot!   We found showers close at hand and a laundry at no extra charge.   On Monday nights the marina puts on a free “happy hour” for the guests and it appeared that most folks were there and waiting for the start.   Our gang headed out for a wonderful dinner at the restaurant that is part of the condominium complex near the marina.   Just a golf course and beach walk away is the “Sandals” resort with which the marina is affiliated.   So this is not your typical Bahamian Island experience, but after two and a half weeks of cruising fairly remote locations we welcome the break. Suspect we will be here a few days or more!

 

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Normans Cay to Black Point

Normans Cay to Black Point

(Thumbnail pictures – double click to each to expand)

February 14 – After the Admiral and Captain exchanged valentines (yes they did that despite being over a month on a 34 foot boat together), there was a confab aboard Emerald City to decide the next step.   We all wanted to head for Hawksbill Cay, which was missed on our voyage two years ago, and has received such rave reviews from the others.   Unfortunately unsettled weather was in the forecast for the next week (I seem to keep writing the same lines regards to the weather).   All three boats were assigned cherished moorings in the north field at Warderick Wells, the headquarters for the Exuma Land-Sea Park, so that made the decision an easy one.   Winds were 10 knots from the north so we headed out Normans Cut and sailed down the Sound (deep water) side of the islands, leaving Shroud, Hawksbill and several other cays to starboard.   The route on the Sound was 15 miles versus 20 via the Bank route.   This is due to the Banks route having to divert to the west to avoid shallows that are called “sand bores.” Lee and Shelby received a gift from Neptune, when Ross and Rosemary spied a paddleboard floating by itself on the Sound.   They were not interested in picking it up, but pointed it out to the intrepid crew of Emerald City, which now has an inflatable paddleboard strapped to the deck in almost

 Dinghy Maintenance with a new Paddle Board on the fore deck!

Dinghy Maintenance with a new Paddle Board on the fore deck!

new condition.   We all picked up our moorings in the narrow channel of Warderick Wells and received an invitation by the ranger station to join the traditional Saturday night gathering on the beach.   As soon we walked up the beach we fell into a conversation with the New England contingent at the gathering.   The Admiral met Mary Dent who had recently attended the funeral of the grandmother to Ryan Gibbons-Ryan is married to Gail’s niece Rebecca.   At the funeral, Mary and Rebecca had chatted, so the Admiral was happy to find a connection to family far out in the Exumas.   The Dents are from Rhode Island and traveling with their two boys on a large trawler style powerboat.   They are currently cruising with the Nicols of Barrington, NH who have three children aboard their 39-foot cutter.   So what do three men from New England talk about when on a beach in the Exumas?   How ‘bout them Patriots!   The Nicols and Dents met each other at the Super Bowl party at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.   Our party broke up as the sun went down and the north wind proved that windbreakers just weren’t going to do the job.   Out came the fleece and the down comforter!

 

February 15th – The trails of Warderick Wells beckoned on the first day at Warderick.   Ross, Rosemary, Lee, Shelby, the Admiral, and Captain all ventured forth, with the first stop being Boo Boo Hill.   Readers of the blog two years ago may remember that Boo Boo Hill is so named because it is supposedly haunted by the ghosts of a ship full of missionaries, wrecked on the shores with no survivors.   No ghosts were seen but the top of Warderick Wells Line Upthe hill is covered with pieces of driftwood that have been decorated by hundreds of boaters that have stopped here while cruising the Exuma cays.   Digging in the pile, Lee found the board with Emerald City and Pathfinders’ names that Lee had carved two years ago.   The board was taken back to Emerald City to add this year for the records and to enhance the lettering. Lee and Dave both had pruners on the hike and volunteered to help the park staff by trimming growth that was extending into the trails. This was done with enthusiasm, especially in the early part of the hike as the white men imagined themselves cutting new trails into the heart of Africa.   All this was forgotten when a new view brought another white sand beach and turquoise water into view.   We crisscrossed the island coming to the old Davis Loyalist plantation and impressive wall that cuts across the island.   We arrived at the shore near Pirates Lair, located on the eastern shore of the southern part of the island.   A small island, Hog Cay was the perfect cover for the ships of the buccaneers as they waited for unsuspecting merchantmen that were sailing from the Exuma Sound onto the Banks to head for Nassau.   The horizon was scanned for Old Ben Bolt the Pirate, but his schooner was nowhere in sight.   By the end of the afternoon we returned the loppers to the ranger station and gratefully headed back to the boats.   The terrain on Warderick Wells is rugged, with sharp limestone rocks covering much of the undulating ground.   The evening was spent attending a lecture on emergency medical procedures, given by a retired policeman/nurse/ jack-of-all-trades, who has sailed to Warderick Wells to give training to the Park staff.

 

February 16th – A surge made it into our anchorage, while the wind and current conspired to keep Pathfinder broadside at 0400 so the rolling brought the Captain to his computer where there was enough bandwidth to post a blog.   There is no cell phone coverage at Warderick and the internet costs $15 per day (if you want it) and is limited to 100 Megs.   It is provided by satellite so if there are a number of other boats on line, it can be a frustrating process.   Just ask the Admiral.   The Captain found that the stress of posting a blog had given him a stiff back. Or maybe it was the awkward position he was in while at the chart table, using the computer and bracing against the roll.   For whatever reason, the rest of the day was taken slowly.   A number of cruisers came by and chatted, including a

Banana Quit Cleans Up

Banana Quit Cleans Up

fellow who had worked in Angola for Chevron at the same time that the Captain had his job there.   We decided that we had probably shared a few “Houston Express” flights together.   He and his wife are headed for the Caribbean after spending over a year so far on their Pacific Seacraft 36. In the evening the Admiral insisted that the Captain put on a collared shirt for dinner aboard Sundance V.   Rosemary and Ross did an outstanding job entertaining and feeding the crews of Emerald City and Pathfinder, ending with another Bahamian star filled sky.

 

February 17th – The wind shifted to the south during the night, providing us with a humid and warm morning but the wind velocity was light.   In mid-morning another trek was

Update for the Pile

Update for the Pile

made up Boo Boo Hill to put the renovated Emerald City / Pathfinder sign back on the pile.   While extending the hike, Dave and Lee decided not to follow the correct path back in order to increase their total exercise mileage.   At least that is story they are sticking too. They arrived back at the dinghies just before slack water and there was a rush to get back to the boats and gather up the snorkeling gear.   This was done and we found a beautiful reef in the western part of the harbor with numerous, colorful fish.   The Admiral decided that the four foot lemon shark was not one of the fish she was searching for but kept snorkeling and was rewarded when a very large ray swam by.   Somehow the Captain missed out on the shark.   A second reef was found that had very impressive coral but by that time the water had started to feel cool enough

Signs of Cruising on Boo Boo Hill

Signs of Cruising on Boo Boo Hill

that we called it a day after a short swim in the vicinity.   At various times rays would leap high out of the water and come down with an impressive splash.   There is no predicting where or when this will happen, so a person just has to be lucky that they are gazing in the right direction.   With three to four foot wingspans they are an impressive sight when airborne.

 

February 18th – Another big weather front was forecast through the area today, which is why we did not give up our mooring on the 17th and explore farther afield.   The waiting list for moorings in the north field is long.   The Captain’s back had a relapse when he tried to gather items from the bottom of the icebox, but the snorkeling and climbing in and out of

Curly Tailed Lizard

Curly Tailed Lizard

the dinghy probably hadn’t helped it out.   At Normans Cay a 70 Hinkley had anchored close by, and here at Warderick a 36 foot Morris picked up the mooring in front of us as Maine built boats must like to stick together.   The admiral on board kayaked past and told us of their search, and eventual purchase of the boat in Southwest Harbor.   Their homeport is St. Michael’s, Maryland.   Soon after she paddled past, Rosemary launched her kayak from Sundance and started paddling toward Pathfinder.   Our Admiral pointed to a large ray swimming far under the surface as it came abeam of Pathfinder’s cockpit.   Suddenly that large dark spot in the water moved quickly to the surface and became airborne about eight feet away!   It isn’t often that you are eyeball to eyeball with a creature from the deep, particularly when it isn’t in its element. With a mighty slap it hit the water and quickly disappeared from view. Opinion is that it was either a spotted or an eagle ray. Ross thinks that they leap out of the water to stun small fish of prey.   The Captain wondered if they were just knocking off parasites.   Further research must be done.

 

February 19th – The next weather front of what seems to be an endless string, arrived at 0400 and the wind howled out of the northwest at 20 to 25 knots with gusts to 30.   Warderick Wells does not have perfect protection from this quadrant of the compass but the shallow waters of the harbor keep the waves from building too high.   The ride on

Staying Dry

Staying Dry

Pathfinder was pretty bouncy at high tide (tidal range in the Bahamas is about 2.5 feet) but the shallow water to our west made a big difference at low water.   Just like being stuck in the house on a snowy day, we made the best of things on the boat.   Small projects were done, books read, and a DVD episode of “Fawlty Towers” put us in a good mood before bedtime!

 

February 20th – We made our escape from Warderick Wells at 0830 when the winds dropped to 20 knots.   This is a beautiful place, but with the blustery weather the swimming and snorkeling opportunities were not as frequent as we would have liked.   One plus is that the hiking on the island trails were very comfortable temperature wise.   With the gusty winds, we decided to just roll out the jib and keep the mainsail under its cover.   With clouds and temperatures in the low 60’s we were wearing long pants, windbreakers, and sailing gloves.   After an hour of sailing the Captain added a fleece under the windbreaker.   We sailed 20 miles to Staniel Cay where we hoped to purchase propane for the dinghy motor.   When we found that we would have to drop off our

Exuma Banks or Penobscot Bay?

Exuma Banks or Penobscot Bay?

container and pick it up at 5 PM we decided to wait for another day.   Besides, the wind was gusting through the harbor and made conditions unpleasant.   So we rolled out the jib once again and sailed another 7 miles to a cove on Great Guana Cay, just south of the Black Point Settlement, where Ross assured us there would be good protection for the next scheduled high wind event.   Sundance and Emerald City were already anchored when we arrived along with eight or nine other boats.   There is a gorgeous beach to the east with one house whose owner generously allows boater to land close by.   The house is the only one that has been built of another abandoned Bahamian development.   To our north was a white castle that looked like a fortress.   A couple that wanted a hurricane proof residence owns this.   It appears that they may have succeeded. We took the dinghies ashore to walk on the roads that led to abandoned dreams.   Behind the house is the excavation of a marina that never ended up being connected to the sea.   We did find a large sign with a planners drawing of what the development was suppose to look like and urging us to buy our lot before it was too late!   It looked like a Florida realtor’s dream with tennis courts, landscaping and huge marina.   What we saw around us was dry limestone, rocky soil with scrubby growth.   The roads had been cut but that was the extent of the work completed.   Heavy equipment was abandoned and rusting with bushes and trees growing around.    Thinking of the huge construction project up at Normans Cay we can only shake our heads and wonder about the folks willing to invest thousands of dollars while other projects all around the Bahamas are abandoned or just getting by.

 

February 21st – Our weatherman Chris Parker is making bold predictions of settled weather in our future.   Hopes are high that the Bahamas will start feeling like the Bahamas. But not today.   Today we were caught in a “compression zone” between a ridge of high pressure near the Dominican Republic and a low pressure in the lower Mississippi Valley.   These were the technical reasons why the wind howled from the east all day.   Still, there were opportunities to be had: a mile and a half down the road from the unfinished dream development is the Black Point Settlement, complete with a laundromat that was put there to lure cruisers like ourselves.   The main anchorage for Black Point is actually in front of the laundromat, but since we were on the backside of town the best way to get there was by a vigorous walk that is always high on the Admiral’s agenda.   The admirals of Sundance and Emerald City (Rosemary and Shelby) decided to join in the fun and they were all ferried ashore by their captains.   Pathfinder’s Admiral had a big wheel, folding hand-truck that the laundry bag was held to with a bungee cord, and off she went with her buddies.   While the boats surged back and forth on their anchor lines, the captains gathered on Sundance for a “skipper’s meeting” where they discussed weighty subjects, such as the best cruising grounds in the southern Exumas, and how many days it would take to make the run to Crooked Island.   After agreeing that the Bahamas should be enjoyed if the winds finally do ease we made plans to explore cays within easy reach of our current anchorage that were not seen by Pathfinder’s crew two years ago.   The captains braved the blustery winds to head for shore, take their bags of trash to the town dump, and met their wives at Deshamons Restaurant for a taste of the local pizza washed down with a Kalik.   The pizza was great and the walk was made back to the beach.   A wind shift had made our anchorage a bit lumpy as well as blustery, so after all the walking back and forth to Black Point it was now decided that the anchorage there was more protected than our current one!   It only took 20 minutes to motor around the point but it would be understandable if some people felt we were going in circles.   With a gorgeous sunset to our west we really didn’t care.

 

 

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