Monday, May 9, 2022

To the Berrys...working our way to the USA

 We have chilled out in Spanish Wells for the week!  I did a couple of small boat projects, as you do (cruising=fixing boats in exotic locations!).  But it was nice to chill in a location with a little bit going on while the weather slowly calmed down a bit........at least I hope it has.  We will see in the morning. 

We had a great but short sail (7-8 miles) to Egg Island just off the northern end of what is generally called Eleuthera but is really George Island, Russel Island and Royal Island. The anchorage at Egg Island was beautiful - one of the nicer spots in the Bahamas so far.  Nothing there but beach and some snorkelling, but just a wonderful setting.  We stayed the night at Egg Island to stage for our crossing to the Berrys

To the Berry's - April 26

Anchorage at Egg Island
We left Egg at around 7:00 to 7:30am in order to try to get the best winds.  In hindsight - it looked like we had left it a day too late and sure enough the winds were quickly dying.  We had thoughts of sailing ont he code zero alone - which we tried then switing to the Spin as the wind died.  It wa dead behind us.  It quickly went from 12-10-8-6.  We could have puttered along at 4 kts maybe under sail, but we also had some pretty big swells.  Nothing uncomfortable, but sure enough, light wind and big swells was causing the sails to collapse and flog.  We motor-sailed as long as we could stand it then reluctantly rolled up the nhadsail.  It was a good crossing - but it sure would have been nice to sail more of it.


We entered the Berrys at Little Harbor Cay, about midway along the island chain.  The cut was easy, being nice and wide and deep on the south side of some rocks where we could see waves breaking.  Once inside, the depths became quite shallow.  We headed a couple of miles north on the marked route and anchored at Devils Cay.  We had the spot to ourselves but could see a few other boats in nearby anchorages.  It is beautiful and protected from east winds here, but would be wide open to any weather from the west.

To the south os us is Flo's Conch Shack - at the time of writing we have not been yet, but may go.  Its apparently famous for its conch fritters........which seems like many english places that are famous for their "fish and chips!"  Now to me conch is ok, but not something I would travel for.  Fish and chips on the other hand........well, there are some good ones to be had!

Hoffman's Cay

The next day we moved just a little north to Hoffman's Cay.  This is the site of Hoffman's Blue hole.  Wow!  the anchorage was amazing, we jumped into the BLue Hole; Salty absolutely loved it!  So much sot hat we returned the next day to do it all again!
Hoffman's Blue Hole


I do think this was perhaps one of the very best anchorages we have stayed in during our trip to the Bahamas!  and that says a lot in itself.

The beaches were clean and spectacular, adn the Blue hole was quite a sight!



And as we returned to the boat from the Blue hole - this was the sight that greeted us!

A total "blue out" where the sky truly met the ocean!

After a couple of days at Hoffman's it was time to move on.  We elected to move up to the northern Berrys - Great Stirrup Cay area.

We found a place to stop for the night - but what a contrast!  We anchored at Snake cay and took Salty ashore on the southern end of Great Stirrup.  Great Stirrup has become the "private island" for a number of cruise ships - what a monstrocity!  Fun park with water slides, a helium baloon ride that takes you 400ft into the air........adn everything else that goes with that.  Needless to say, we got a visit from security for taking Salty ashore - we were reminded (very professionally and courteous), that we could not cross private property, but we were welcome to use the beach up to the high tide line per Bahamian Law.  We did, and we left early the following morning.

Our Return Trip

Our return trip took us a with a long day to Bimini - last stop before the USA.  Bimini is far from a Bahamian treaure........well more honestly, its a bit of a dump as far as the island goes.  But its a good spot to clear in and out.  There are a couple fun spots and the Bluewater marina is reasonably priced.  Big Game Club serves reasonable food, and the End of the World Sandbar is definately a place to visit - as we have done on several trips!



We found some old grafitti from a previous trip and refreshed the ink while adding a new one for Midnight Sun III



After 2 nights, we headed back towards Miami.  Winds were lighter than forecast, so it became a motor-sail, fighting the gulf stream to stay south.  But we did have one amazing surprise.  As we left Bimini, we were escorted by a pod of Pilot Whales!  At first, I thought they were dolphins, but they were larger and darker in color - and clearly not dolphins!  What an amazing sight to end out time in the Bahamas!





Monday, April 25, 2022

A Wonderful Story from Spanish Wells

 Cruising Story – Restoring Faith in Community and Humanity!

The cruising/sailing community is a fairly tight knit group and there are countless stories about cruisers helping cruisers, particularly when something breaks or malfunctions.  We have witnessed this many times and have often lent a hand, tools or spares in order to get a boat back up and running.

But this week we were the recipient of an act of kindness that really helped restore my faith in humanity and community.  We have been staying a few days on the boat in the Bahamian town of Spanish Wells, located adjacent to the north end of Eleuthera. 


It is a wonderfully unique town, with a vibrant and successful lobster fishing industry.  The locals here are so friendly and hard-working; but take the time to greet you as you walk down the streets, often offering a ride if you are carrying shopping etc.  

Our story began as we finished dinner in a local restaurant.  Our dog Salty was with us and is often our “ambassador” for meeting new friends.  Erica and David and their friend Bereness introduced themselves and took an immediate shine to Salty. 

Ambassador Salty

We spent a few minutes chatting and as we often do when we meet new people, we offered a “boat card” to them.  For any non-boaters reading this, Boat cards are like business cards that cruisers use to exchange contact information.  We left the restaurant and walked back to the boat.  Thirty minutes later, I received a text message from Erica, “we would love to have you over for breakfast tomorrow to hear about your adventures – we will pick you up from your boat at 8:45am”.  How kind!  We graciously accepted.  We had a wonderful breakfast and invited them to come see the boat later that day, we extended the invitation to stay for dinner and I would cook steaks on the grill.  That evening, they came to the boat, with 20 fresh lobster tails, wine, and home-made ice cream. Our simple dinner became a surf and turf feast!  We learned that our new friends were leaving the island the following day, but they insisted that they would leave their house open so that we could use their laundry facilities.  How wonderful was that!  The local laundromat had closed down, so this was a great help to us. 
The view from our new friends' home

But how amazing is that – 24 hours earlier we were total strangers, and now we are trusted to use facilities in their home when they were not even present.  Needless to say, we are extremely grateful and intend to remain good friends.  The town of Spanish Wells is an amazing community.  We have experienced many acts of kindness on each of our trips through this area, but this one tops them all! David and Erica – thank you!  We truly value your friendship!




David, Neil, Janet, Bereness, and Erica


Friday, April 22, 2022

We Slow the Pace a Little....or do We?

Monument Anchorage

Georgetown and Stocking Island

Its always amazing to have guests and we loved our time with Cliff, Kristen and Cole.  Now we have the boat to ourselves again.....wow, its so quiet!  We had held up quite a pace trying to pack in as many things as we could while our guests were here.



Chat and Chill Beach

We spent a little time on  the hook enjoying the activities at Stocking Island.  It is a winderful community of boaters here, but it is easy to get stuck there!  Easy community, things to do, comfortable.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.....but many people get stuck in that "comfort zone" I guess.  Some stay for months!  We liked the Monument Anchorage with its nice beaches and walks.  Chat and Chill (bar) was just far enough away that we didn't go every day.....but we could make it by dinghy with just a little effort.

We met some great people, exchanged stories and experiences, and raised a few glasses!


Calabash Bay, Long Island

Janet had a trip to make to Vegas to attend a wedding.  I elected to stay with the boat and Salty.  That sure beat two three-leged flights to get from Georgetown to Las Vegas and back on 4 days!  Hats off to Janet for doing it!  So we headed to Emerald Bay Marina where we had easy access to the airport and a good spot for Salty and I to chill for a couple of days.  While Janet was away, Salty and I did make a solo trip to Long Island with Larry and Tracy of SV Tra-Sea.  The weather was great - we ended up motoring across, but having a great sail back, returning to Stocking Island, Georgetown.

We had a great stay in the beautiful Calabash Bay, and were able to explore the backwaters by dinghy and give Salty and amazing beach walk


Spectacular waters!, great beaches, and a friendly local resort that actually welcomed cruisers to thier happy hour and restaurant!  This is a spot I would highly recommend and will come back to in the future.  Even though it was a short visit, i really enjoyed our time there.





To Head North?

We had hoped to go down to the Ragged Islands (south) on this trip, but its likely not happening.  Looking ahead at the weather - it was just not working to move south and get back in a reasonable timeframe.  It is now April, and our cruising permit expired May 15, and our insurance company wants us out of the Bahmas by that date too (hurricane risk).  So somewhat reluctantly, we decided it was time to start heading North.

Lee Stocking Island Marine Reseach Facility

SV Tra-Sea Departs!

We were at that point in the trip where we knew it was time for us to go separate ways to SV Tra-Sea.  Their plans were taking them south and on to Grenada down the "Thorny Path", but our plans were to head home for the sumer.  It's always sad to separate from our best friends, but it was time.  They had a weather window to head east and on towards the Turks and Caicos - so we wished them well, and we knew this was now time for us to go generally North.

Salty checks out the Ruins

Our first hop took us back to Lee Stocking Island.  Now this is an interesting spot.  An old Marine Research Facility was based here that apparently lost funding about 10+ years ago.  The facility consists of a village; ponds and laboratories where some type of marine studies were undertaken; airstrip; water treatment plant, etc.  it had a very apocalyptic feel to it (I think that's the right word!).  Abandonned, cars and trucks in the street, - everything but the zombies!  While it was interesting - it was kind of weird........especially when I took Salty ashore for his night-time walk!


Back to Black Point for Easter Regatta

Easter Regatta


Ok, I did talk about getting stuck in Georgetown/Stocking Island.....and Black Point is another spot where that can happen.....and here we were again!  but its a good place to anchor for a blow, and we did have a minor blow.  But it was also the local's Easter Sailing Regatta.  Wow - how entertaining!  Six local traditional bahamian boats competed....two collided.....one sank (but was recovered).  Well you just had to be there and see the excitement.  Rules?  I think they were "fluid".  Start times - when the boats were ready.....finish line - well even that seemed to move around.  Lots of yelling and wet sailors!  THey even allowed a few tourists to join their crews for a couple of races.  No - I didn't.  I was tempted.  Fear of the recovery time from injury got the better of me.  Maybe that was good sense!....I am not as young as I sometimes like to think I am.

 


 Made Some North Progress

Anchored off Norman Cay
We left Balck Point with no firm plan on destination.  We were thinking of maybe Cambridge Cay about 10 miles north......but what perfect conditions we had!  Wind on our tail at about 120 degrees and about 18 kts with a near flat sea.....we had to go further.  Even with a late start we made about 45 miles to Norman Cay which put us quite far north in the Exumas.

Weather System Approaching

I had been watching the weather as I normally do.  A trough and low pressure system was rolling off the US coast pushing strong NE veering E winds down to the Bahamas.  Not dangerously strong....but perhaps enough to make conditions uncomfortable, and the outlook was similar for about a week.  Where would be a good spot to hang out?  The Northern Exumas were Ok, but not great, so we elected to make a relatively big push the next day and go to Spanish Wells.  We sailed, we motor-sailed, then motored a bit.  Went through a couple of localized squalls - but nothing bad.  We made it to Spanish Wells in good time and secured a dock in town.  It looked like we would be here several days to a week - so its nice to be at a dock where you can get off the boat comfortably and have the piece of mind of being securely tied up and sheltered!!

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Georgetown and Southern Exumas

Leaving Black Point

 After spending several days at Black Point enjoying the festivities, we continued on south towards Georgetown.  The trip was not without excitement.....but perhaps not the best kind of excitement.  While sailing south to Little Farmer's Cay, we heard a message on VHF from one of our buddy boats - SV Entre Nous................"we are dealing with a fire onboard"..........oh no, that has to be one of our nightmares!  We were about a mile a head and SV Tra-Sea about 1/2 mile, so we both turned around to offer assistance.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

The good news - they managed to get the fire out quickly, in fact it virtually self extinguished once the engine was stopped.
The bad news - upon later investigation by owner Mike, Larry, and Neil, numerous wires had burned in the vicinity of the starter motor, and the starter motor was not working.
The Ugly - it was an ugly mess of burned wires, but we managed to cut out and splice in new wire where needed.  But the starter still did not spin and appeared to be the source of the fire.
The really good news - Mike had a spare starter motor on board and wile there is still a problem with the ignition switch circuit, we managed to jerry-rig a start switch sufficient to keep Entre Nous cruising.

Well that took up most of the day, but we did make a short hop to Little Farmer's Cay where we ate with the obligatory stop to one of our favorite Exumas restaurants, "Ocean Cabin"
Moonrise at Little Farmers

As always, it was great to see our friend and owner Terry Bain and his wife Ernestine who I must say cooks the best Bahamian Lobster ever!












Georgetown

We beat our way down the Exuma Sound to Georgetown and took a dock at the Exuma Yacht Club.  Hmmm, not my best recommendation but we were picking up guests and it seemed easier than a bumpy dinghy ride.  The docks are rickety pilings not in great shape and we had to spider the boat between to avoid exposed bolts in the pilings.  It was a pretty rough stay with winds in the 20+kts.  The owner Choppy was nice, but he has a dock hand there named Ronald that should be watched.  He asked for food (which we gave him some), but we saw him getting on and off unattended boats, and had to ask him to leave ours at one point.  Now I am not saying he was doing anything wrong, but it did make us feel very uncomfortable, and we were happy to leave!  This is quite different to the anchorages at Georgetown which are very friendly, but were also very busy.

Anyway, once we had our guests on board, we ventured back north to see some of the Exuma sights.  While we had seen most before, it was fun to do it with friends and add a few new stops for us.  We went to Staniel Cay to see the pigs and Thunderball Grotto; Little Farmers Cay again; Oven Rock Cave; snorkeled on the Mermaid/piano at Musha and Rudder Cay; made a stop at Lee Stocking Island and explored he former ocean research center (now abandoned), and then dropped off our guests at Emerald Bay Marina.





Monday, March 28, 2022

The Exumas and Black Point Festivities

 Exumas

We arrived in the Exumas after a glorious sail from Cape Eleuthera to Waderick Wells. Conditions were great with 15-18 on the beam and 2-4 ft swells.  Leaving Davis Harbor on Eleuthera was a little tense as its narrow, and shallow.....and of course we hit it at low tide!  But all was good. 



We spent a couple of nights at Waderick wells - the first night at Emerald Rock and the second in the North Field.  We love Waderick Wells and saw plenty of beautiful vistas and wildlife - with 2 Bull Sharks swimming under the boat all night.  

We love the trek up to BooBoo Hill where we placed the obligatory boat memorabilia


Waderick Wells North Field




BooBoo Hill Boat Memorabilia


We took advantage of a cold front blow to move south and sailed from Waderick to Black Point in 25 kt winds, finding a pretty good spot at Black Point.

SSCA Gathering - Black Point

For several months, I have been promoting an SSCA "Informal Gathering" at Black Point on March 15.  There had been a lot of interest on the SSCA Forum, but who could know how many boats might actually show!  I had also been in contact with Lorraine Rolle of Lorraine's Bakery and Cafe at Black Point.  Lorraine is the SSCA Cruising Station Host for Black Point and the southern Bahamas.  Well!  Lorraine had gone to town and organized a whole host of events!  What a great time was had by all.  I have included some photos below.


Lorraine put on a welcome reception on the 15th with free appetizers; a 4-course semi-formal dinner (we took that to mean shirt with no oil stains!); walk-a-thon; St. Patrick's Day Buffet; and a BBQ on the beach.  Each night there was live entertainment with a DJ, local performers, and a Rake and Scrape Band that she brought in from Nassau (Curbside Rockers).  The band was excellent and very entertaining!  When I get around to making a video of this trip, I will have some footage of their performance.


There was a great turnout from SSCA and many others.  I don't have an accurate headcount of SSCA members, but my guess is that over 20 SSCA boats came through with some staying for all events.  The events were open to everyone.  We asked that SSCA members bring along school supplies if possible to donate to the local school - and many did so!

Lorraine's Cafe

Black Point Anchorage by night


I did a boat count in the anchorage and we consistently had over 60 boats each day of the event, with some turnover each day.


The closing night was once again another great night with live performances from the band, DJ and a well-known Bahamian rapper that the kids all seemed to know!

The kids - locals and cruisers played volleyball on the beach, and there was a tug-of-war contest for cruisers.  Sadly our team SV Tra-Sea was defeated - but is was a lot of fun!


Performance by Rapper

Kids enjoying the water adn music

Cruisers!


Tug-of-war winners











Neil thanking Lorraine

Curbside Rockers - Rake and Scrape Band

Based on the success of this years' event, Lorraine plans to make this an annual event.  I hope so - it was so great to see cruisers back in the Bahamas having fun again!  I am pretty sure the event was a success for local businesses - especially Lorraine's Cafe.

Thank you Lorraine!

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Spanish Wells and Eleuthera

Spanish Wells

It was time to head to Spanish Wells.  We had a great sail from Little Harbour, Abacos to the anchorage at Royal Island.  

Royal Island is a very protected anchorage from all directions, but there is really nothin to do there.  There is a dock providing access to a private resort, but we did sneak Salty ashore for a short walk.

The following day we made the short hop to Spanish Wells.  Yacht Haven was fully booked as a blow was predicted, but we got lucky and found 2 slips with Johnny Underwood at 50 c /ft. mono and 75c /ft. cat.  Probably the deal of the century in the Bahamas,  He also provided us with a golf cart for a small fee!


We had been having problems with our masthead light and a trip up the mast revealed the problem.
Spanish Wells from the Masthead

Water in the Light

This is the second Weems and Plath light to go bad in less than a year!  I called them and we are getting another replacement shipped - but clearly they have a design issue!


Waiting out the blow, we visited Budda's place - well its a liquor store, with bar added, with food truck added.  Its a pretty cool, must  stop!

Low Tide looking towards Devil's Backbone

After our stay in Spanish Wells we left exiting through Current Cut to North Eleuthera and the Glass Window Bridge.  it was a bumpy ride but well worth it!

We had a very pleasant night at Glass Window, visiting the Bridge and Queens Baths.  Both are certainly well worth the visit with spectacular views and waves crashing in from the Atlantic side.









Queens Baths

Larry at Queens Baths

Salty overlooking Queens Baths

Salty had a blast but wanted to walk the narrow slippery paths - so we watched from a ridge overlooking the Baths.











Eleuthera

We continued south down the full length of Eleuthera with overnight stop at Alabaster Bluff and Davis Harbour Marina on the very southern tip.  We attempted Hatchet Bay Harbour, but with large swells and 20kt cross winds, I must admit that I chickened out going through the 70 ft wide channel between rock walls!

We really enjoyed Eleuthera and will be back for a longer visit.   We rented a car to sightsee and collect our daughter Hannah from north Eleuthera airport for a week-long visit.

Alabaster Bluff


Entrance to Davis Harbour Marin


Davis Harbour was another narrow entrance between rock cuts, but not as intimidation as Hatchet Bay.  We had conflicting depth into, but saw nothing less than around 6 ft an hour or so after low tide - so all was good!

On exiting (again,  we were at low tide), we had no problems with our 4.5 ft draft.  Our buddy boat Tra-Sea had a soft touch in the cut at low tide (draft 5'-9"), but all was good!

We had a glorious sail over to the Exumas coming into the Exuma bank at Waderick Wells Cut and spending 2 great nights at the Exumas Land and Sea Park.