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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Flying Fish

 

Flying fish. Photo by Mike Prince from Flickr https://flickr.com/photos/70804987@N00/5800262852.

We're seeing lots of flying fish on our passage today. Cool stuff like this is a reason why when we have crappy days—including ones that prompt us to change our plans—why we do this.

Mich nicer to see flying fish this way, and in daylight, as opposed to from our night passages of yore

Location Location

Making this short while we're still in cell tower range, leaving the Bahamas Exumas from Black Point. Our goal is to arrive in Eleuthera before sunset tonight, crossing Exuma Sound to get there.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

When to Tuck Tail & Turn Around


I took this 7-second video of our passage to the Raggeds when things were still comparatively mellow. Then I stowed my camera below and braced myself.

You've probably heard the adage: Why do we keep beating our head against the wall? Because it feels so good when we stop.

My "Aha!" moment happened when we were attempting to follow our friends in Fiji from Savu-Savu to the Taveunis. They caught the weather window there in time. We did not. That became abundantly clear as the sun set and our autopilot went on the fritz because it couldn't handle the conditions. Wayne quickly reconstituted the autopilot—he's had a bit of practice—then asked . . .

"What if instead of pounding upwind, we turned around, and headed for the Yasawas instead of the Taveunis? It would be a much easier passage and we'll be there tomorrow."

We did. It was. We were really glad we did. We even caught back up with our friends elsewhere in Fiji.

Fast forward to a week ago. 

We were leaving Flamingo Cay in the Jumentos after spending a week with our friends in the Georgetown area, then two days on Long Island, with a hop to Water Cay, then Flamingo. We were bound for Buena Vista in the Ragged Islands, then from there we'd catch up with friends in the Ragged Island at Hog Cay.

A driving motivator to buy our boat when we did and leave right away was driven in part by our desire to return to the Bahamas' Ragged Islands this cruising season. It's a place of fond memories, new friends, good times, and great conversations with cruisers and locals.

The Raggeds' name is apt: they are rugged and remote, particularly in comparison to the Abacos, Bimini, Nassau, Eleuthera, the Exumas, and Long Island. Only one island in the Raggeds is inhabited: Duncan Town. When we last came, Duncan Town boasted a population of 70 hearty souls, a little bar, a tinier market, Marjorie's charming local handicrafts store, and a robust flock of peacocks. Duncan Town was a dinghy ride from Hog Cay.

Meanwhile, we were pounding our way into 20-knot winds, getting soaked by the waves washing up over our bow and making their way back toward us. We braced ourselves into the cockpit, grasping and holding what we could with our hands and feet, our stomachs tight, our teeth clenched. The fun-to-suck ratio was most definitely out of whack, severely pegged on the suck end of the meter. 

We were about to cross the Man O War channel and shift our angle onto a track we needed to travel for several more hours, which would make everything even worse.

Instead, we turned around. For us, that meant writing off the Raggeds for the season and maybe even forever—a disappointment. Yet we felt flooded with relief. It wasn't an easy decision, but for us, in that place and time, in those conditions, it was the right decision.


This is 7-second video shows what it looked like when we turned around.

What are you doing now in your life that's beating your head against the wall?

Notice it. Question it. Figure out a way to stop. Then . . . stop.

Location Location

Georgetown area, Great Exumas, the Bahamas.
The view off our bow at our current anchorage of Sand Dollar Beach. Stocking Island.

We are again anchored off Stocking Island's Sand Dollar Beach, 23 30.690N 75 44.561W. Still catching up on posts from Georgetown, Long Island, Water, and Flamingo Cays in the Jumentos. Tomorrow (Wednesday) we're headed to Lee Stocking Island, working our way back up the Exumas chain. We'll be out of wifi range for a few days.



Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Quirky Cruiser Art of Stocking Island, Bahamas

 



In case you're having trouble linking to the video above (there were some issues with that), try this direct link https://youtu.be/iol7Hk0qly0

I love the creativity cruisers use to transform found materials into practical yet whimsical art. 

Stocking Island's Art Walk, one of the newest walking trails in the Georgetown area of the Bahamas Exumas offers a delightful example.

If you can spare a little less than 2 1/2 minutes, enjoy a virtual walk with this video.

Location Location
This video is a recent retrospective of our initial stop in the Georgetown, Bahamas area, where we've since returned. We are again anchored off Stocking Island's Sand Dollar Beach, 23 30.690N 75 44.561W. Still catching up on posts.




Monday, March 29, 2021

Snorkeling Thunderbolt Grotto at Staniel Cay The Bahamas


Staniel Cay is Exuma’s mecca for the novel experience of snorkeling (click the 1-minute YouTube video to join me on my snorkel, or check out this one) in an internationally famed cave grotto and to get a gander and Major Cay’s equally famed swimming pigs—just don't get bit in the *ss by a porker like I did! 
Chris of s/v Scintilla, getting ready to snorkel Thunderball Grotto.

If you fancy propping your elbows on the bar where Sean Connery and the Bond Thunderball crew hung out, then stop on by the Staniel Cay Yacht club. They must’ve liked it as part of Never Say Never was also shot there as were Splash and Into the Blue. For more on Staniel Cay celebrities and Thunderball Grotto check out Planet D's post.
My cruising budget is the two-fer Liquormat on Staniel Cay, rather than the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
We went for a beer, but did our own laundry rather than use the "mat."

Staniel Cay offers the basics and post-COVID could use the business.  There are two tiny grocery stores on the island, a pink and blue one. You’ll find some overlap but different enough stock it’s worth a stop at both. But when our friend Chris got a shock when the small can of Spam she bought and thought was $4 rang up for $9, we were glad our provisions didn’t need restocking.  
We're still well stocked on our cheeses from the States—thank goodness.
These were for sale in one of the Staniel Cay markets. Guess inventory turnover is low these days.

A small airport supports the jet-setter crowd, as does a marina. On our past visits, the fisherman put on a bit of a show feeding their scraps to the friendly nurse sharks and stingrays. This year, we didn't see many sharks or rays. Guessing they've re-learned to fish for themselves.
This rather handsome rooster ruffling its feathers was one of my favorite sights on Staniel Cay.

For us cruisers, neighboring Big Major Cay—a great place for cruiser BBQs, if they’re far enough from the porkers—is 20 nautical miles from Warderick Wells and 57 nautical miles from Georgetown. Stocking Island offers a midpoint stop between Georgetown and Staniel Cay for those who want or need one. Staniel and Big Major Cays are considered don’t-misses in the Exumas. 

Location Location
This is a recent retrospective from March 14, 2021, as I'm playing catch-up after a week or so out of WiFi range (and sometimes it takes a while to make a video). We anchored at Big Major Cay 24 10.96 N 76 27.637W and made the ~2-mile dinghy ride to Thunderball Grotto and nearby Staniel Cay. 

We are currently in Great Exumas protected Elizabeth harbour, getting ready to hunker through a couple weather fronts. More catch-up posts coming up!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Temporarily Incommunicado

 

Even this won't be an option for at least a day maybe several.
We've seen working phone booths in far more remote places
like this in French Polynesia
.
Photo by 
Kelly Lacy from Pexels

Weather permitting, we're off to the Bahamas Ragged Islands tomorrow, likely stopping off at Water Cay first. We loved Water Cay when we last went, in 2014.

The Raggeds are a series of islands that are mostly relatively remote. That means instead of Georgetown's 150 boats in their harbor (versus 400 or more in a non-COVID year) or superyachts or charter boats, we either be on our own or with more crusty cruisers like ourselves.

When we get in range of Duncantown—population 70—the only populated island in the chain, we will be back in phone and thus wifi range again.

So in the interim, I'll be queuing up some catch-up posts, when we're not too busy with new adventures.

More soon!

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Location Location

Dean's Blue Hole, from today's Long Island, Bahamas road trip. 
It's the second deepest blue hole in the world and international freediving championship site
.

We're currently anchored off the Salt Pond area of Long Island, Thompson Bay, 23 21.474N 75 08.376W.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Major Cay, Bahamas: Who's Faster—a Pig or Me?

 The worst pig often gets the best pear.Italian Proverb

Major Cay pigs, May 2013. Exumas, the Bahamas. Deflecting them from our dinghy by tossing them eats.

The first time I went to Major Cay, I took one of my all-time favorite shots—the swimming pigs, eyeing pancakes tossed to them from our dinghy. 

One of the many Major Cay tour boats bringing tourists to the swimming pigs. 
This is Pudding, one of the the more assertive porcine swimmers.

Truth be told, every time I come to Major Cay, the prospect of these enormous highly food-motivated hooved, sharp-teethed animals going after the grub we've got in our inflatable dinghy or on our person freaks me out. I may as well festoon myself with salmon bites and waggle myself a few feet from a grizzly bear in prime fishing season.

Sign at Major Cay, home of the fames swimming pigs. Consider yourself duly warned.

Let's just say I know better. 

These cute little guys que up for their bottle feeding.

I even smirked a bit when I saw a youngster get chased by a pig when we were last at Major Cay in 2014—shooting my photos of the episode from a safe distance. 

This time I got complacent, foolishly figuring because there were lots of food sources and other folks closer than I was—like tour boats—that I wouldn't become a target. I'd brought food and decided to snap some photos from my not-very-Zoom-lens water camera. In the process, I not only got closer than I should, the food I carried and previously kept hidden from view caught the attention of one of the pigs.

The pig at Major Cay, Eleuthera, the Bahamas emerges from the water
and goes on the move. This is the sow that charged me.

The pig charged.

I  turned tail and ran, but not fast enough. The pig nipped me in the *ss—hard! I don't even remember falling on my *ss, but my sandy backside provided the proof. I just remember that I flung the bag of food to get the pig away. It pounced the bag, and tore it open devouring its contents instantly.

"Pavlovian response," Wayne said. "It knew that would work, and it did. But I do feel like my manly territory was usurped by that pig." 

Ahhh . . . empathy (not).

I'm lucky that I was still wearing my neoprene wetsuit from our Thunderbolt Grotto snorkel. The pig's teeth didn't tear the suit or my skin. The bite still left some serious teeth imprints, which since filled in with a bruise. My keister still smarts, especially on bumpy dinghy rides, which are the norm

Where the pig left its mark on me. The bite is a little bigger than the size of my fist.
It's been several days and the bruise looks worse but doesn't hurt as much.

Afterward, while I watched the gal who worked at Major Cay bottle feeding piglets vitamins I nearly saw some of the more mature pigs nearly trample baby pigs as they tried to horn in. I am reasonably sure some get trampled to death. Wayne later told me he saw lots of YouTube videos of visitors getting chased. Our friend Neville of Dreamtime, who got phenomenally great photos of the pigs earlier this year, told us about a tour boat passenger feeding the pigs whose breast got too close to the food source. The consequences were ugly.

This gal who works at Major Cay to help care for the pigs there knew her stuff.

Major Cay is still worth a visit. Replace "when pigs fly" with "when pigs swim" is still a novel sight to be seen for us city slickers. I still believe baby pigs are freaking cute. 

This piglet was quite gentle, but I was still on the lookout for the sows and watched my backside!

Just . . . beware about how close is too close a look.

Who's faster—me or the pig? My high school competitive track racing days are too far behind me—most definitely the pig is faster.

Location Location

The pigs don't swim out as far as this couple on the SUP at Major Cay, Exuma, Bahamas.

This is a recent retrospective from when we were at Major Cay, Exumas, Bahamas, 24 10.964N 76 27.637W. We are currently in Long Island, working our way to the Raggeds. Since Major Cay, we've anchored in the Salt Pond/Thompson Bay area of Long Island. Catch-up posts coming.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Bahamas Exuma Parks Crown Jewel: Warderick Wells


Take a 2-minute YouTube mini-tour of the Bahamas and you'll wonder why depression is called 

"the blues."

We tucked tail from Shroud Cay to get better shelter in Warderick Wells, the crown jewel of the Exumas Cays Land and Sea Parks, and home of the park's headquarters.

Warderick Wells, part of Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the Bahamas.

Warderick Wells still gets windy, but thanks to near 360-degree protection, the chop never gets too rough. It's the kind of place boats go to securely ride out 70+-knot winds. We were there in winds in just the steady 20-knot range. We were "stuck" there 5 days, and even though the winds kept me from snorkeling (though here's a little bit of what I saw on a prior Warderick Wells trip) or kayaking, there are worse places to be stuck, even without WiFi.

Eight passengers on a 4-person dinghy, Warderick Wells.
Note the ponytail on the gal standing. Yes, it was windy!

The park used to sell limited WiFi access but decided the complaints about its limitations weren't worth the hassle of offering the service. Technically, there is WiFi if you are able to get enough of a signal in the non-public part of the park headquarters or at the top of BooBoo Hill from nearby Highborn Cay's BTS tower. Honestly, despite my addiction to the internet, my time at Warderick Wells reminded me of how little really happens most of the time if you step out for a while.

Chris and Chris' sailboat Scintilla, looking like the cover of a cruising magazine at Warderick Wells.
Warderick Wells is named for its natural cisterns, which provided drinkable water in times past. These days, drinking water throughout the Bahamas comes from reverse osmosis—also known as taking the salt out of saltwater. If you're coming to the park, you bring your own water, along with anything else you need.
Dana and Wayne at the top of BooBoo Hill, Warderick Wells, the Bahamas.
Photo courtesy Chris(tine) of s/v Scintilla.

The hiking is terrific at Waderick Wells. You could easily spend a couple of days to cover all the trails, especially if you want to wade the island's lovely beaches. Thanks to the Bahamas Land Trust formation and management of the park, the trails are reasonably well-marked and there's useful educational signage about the park's history, flora, and fauna. At least this time, I didn't get myself lost on my hike—not sure if that's due to improved trail markers or hiking with Wayne, rather than solo.

This is the rough, Exuma Sound side of Warderick Wells.

The blowholes burst 30 feet into the air, but I was unwilling to soak my non-waterproof camera with a decent enough zoom lens to photograph the blowholes in all they spurting glory at a distance. Even at the top of BooBoo Hill not only could I not hold my camera steady in the wind, and there was still significant saltwater spray from Exuma Sound. Getting closer would've surely soaked my camera. Besides, I decided I wasn't up for rock-hopping out to the blowholes in the winds as I was and still am healing up from the knee I tweaked at Shroud Cay.

View of our Gulfstar 45 from BooBoo Hill, Warderick Wells.
The turquoise area is the only part deep enough not to scrape a hull, and it's got a wicked current.

My only real complaint about Warderick Wells is how tight the channel is. We muffed our first grab at the $35-a-night mooring ball line that we tried to snatch in 20+knot winds—despite our friends from Scintilla's help. There was no room for error, so we scraped what little paint there was on our keel down to the fiberglass on the sandbar. We'll add that to our list of items to address on this summer's haulout.

One of the 8 superyachts anchored near us at Shroud Cay, Exumas, Bahamas.
One of the superyachts at Shroud was called
SkyFall, like the Bond flick, and looked Bond-worthy.
The good news is that narrow channel keeps out the superyachts, who have an uncanny talent for blocking my sunset views at anchor. They also tend to run their noisy generators all night, which helps them eviscerate our night vision with the disco-like lights they irradiate the water with after sunset and until dawn. 

Stepping Stone, a trawler, got rammed by a catamaran attempting to tie off
on the mooring ball next to them at Warderick Wells.

That narrow channel also probably factored into why we witnessed a catamaran slamming into a parked trawler at Warderick Wells. At least we just hit a sandbar. Warderick may not get the superyachts, but it gets a lot of charter boats that are not always working as they should, with captains who don't always know what they're doing. Beware!

Location Location

Sunset at Warderick Wells, Exuma, Bahamas. Not a bad place to be stuck for a while.

This is a retrospective of when we were at Warderick Wells, Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the Bahamas, 24 23.797N 76 37.940W, mooring ball #9, March 8-13, 2021. We are currently anchored off of Georgetown. My next posts will cover Major Cay and Stanley Cay, where we anchored after Warderick and before Georgetown. We're working our way down to the Ragged Islands.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Bahamas Escape: Shroud Cay—the Good, the Bad & the Ugly


The chief delight of Shroud Cay is its variety of creeks . . . The central tidal swamp forest of mangroves abounds in sea life.—Stephen Pavlidis, The Island Hopping Digital Guide to the Exuma Cays - Part II – Exuma Park [The Bahamas] 

Entrance to Shroud Cay's mangroves. Exuma, the Bahamas.

Wayne chose Exuma Park’s Shroud Cay for its shelter from strong Northeasteries, as the Bahamas forecast a pummeling of 20-35 knots of wind off and on for ten days. We didn’t want to spend that time stuck in Nassau—we came to spend time in nature, away from civilization. He knew initially the winds would come in from Northwest, which would not be comfortable, but they would clock east, then we’d be fine. Shroud offered one of the closer destinations from Nassau—44 nautical miles—an easy day sail with time left to play ashore that day. 

From Shroud Cay, we could cherry-pick our way to other nearby anchorages in the Exumas that also offered protection as well as excellent opportunities for hiking, dinghy rides, kayaking, and snorkeling. 
 
Our anchor came up with ease before 7 a.m. in Nassau and the winds pleasantly surprised us. We didn’t expect to sail most of the way to Shroud Cay. We did, arriving a tad before 3 pm. 

We dinghied to the nearby beach and coated our feet in the powdery, buff-colored sand. 
See that lone mangrove sprout? That's how mangroves sprout, and spread. Mangroves are amazing ecosystems—they purify water and provide shelter for a diversity of life.
They are also one of the best places to ride out a hurricane.
The crew from a pavilion from one of the eight superyachts parked in the mooring field gave us their best guess at high tide, important for planning our mangrove exploration the next day. Our guidebook advised entering the creek two hours before slack tide. The tide needed to be high enough to navigate its narrow, rocky, coral-strewn, inflatable-dinghy-puncture-capable entry—and clearing not long after slack to avoid getting stranded before the shallows filled in and stranded us. Also, the nasty Northwesterlies were due to arrive around 4 pm. I wanted us to be snugly back aboard before they hit full force. 
 
Twice in the last few days, the winds arrived earlier than forecast, and we were groggy from getting violently tossed around from a wicked southwesterly at 5 am that was not forecast. Had we anticipated a southwesterly, Wayne would’ve opted for Norman Cay, with its southwesterly protection, then moved to Shroud Cay the next day. 

In the morning, by the time I poked my head into the cockpit for a look around, only our boat and Scintilla remained in the anchorage. Besides the superyachts, us and our friends on Scintilla, there was one other sailboat the night prior, but the sailboat and all the superyachts were gone. I didn’t hear any of them leave.
Sculptural trees at Driftwood Beach, Shroud Cay, the Bahamas.
I thought we were taking off for our dinghy ride at 11:30. At noon, I got antsy. Phone, text, and email coverage was non-existent at Shroud Cay (though unbeknownst to us, our friends discovered the night before, one of the superyachts radiated open WiFi and took advantage of that). That left VHF radio or a dinghy ride for communication, and we typically turn our radio off shortly after anchoring and weren’t sure when Chris and Chris left theirs on. Wayne dinghied over to Scintilla to check in. Christopher quoted tide data rather than an anecdotally-based later slack tide than the superyacht folks, so we left at 1:30.

The entry into the creek was high enough, and our outboard propeller only briefly churned the sand a few times from a low water level section. Still, I remained twitchy about getting back before the tide dropped too much or the winds kicked on early.

The Bahamas colors are often surreally beautiful—like some hyped-up Photoshop travelogue creation. But they’re real, practically glowing in the sunlight like some overdone supermodel surpassed by the equally dramatic appearance of true natural beauty.

Leafy green mangroves thrust their curvaceous branches through a bright beige sandy swamp. The crystalline water spanned a glimmering palette from pale alabaster sand to celery to teal. Overhead, a mix of fluffy white cirrus clouds and a bank of bruise-colored clouds punctuated the otherwise intensely blue skies. The squally-looking clouds looked like they’d mostly bypass us.

Startlingly white egrets scattered in flight as our dinghies wended their way through the meandering creek. Several turtles swam past; we’re sure we missed some as the breeze rippled the water’s surface. Wayne spotted a baby stingray; I saw a charcoal gray four-footer. Because Shroud Cay is part of the Exumas park system, it’s illegal to catch or take anything—even abandoned seashells. Surprisingly, we didn’t see other fish, though we know the mangroves are a nursery for a variety of fish, often including sharks, as well as a welcome habitat for conch and lobster.

Sometimes I’ve spotted large populations fish that were otherwise invisible kayaking or snorkeling. I was hoping to do both before we left Shroud Cay.
Exumas Sound View from Camp Driftwood trail. Shroud Cay, the Bahamas.
We parked our dinghies at Driftwood Beach, which curved its way from the protected mangrove to the open ocean of Exuma Sound, an inviting stretch. We were there to explore Camp Driftwood, a lookout point described as a Robinson Caruso-like setting with cruiser mementos and benches and tables cobbled together from found materials. We didn’t see anything like that. However, the lookout point gave us an expansive mangrove view, all the way out to our anchorage on the opposite side of the island, about a 40-minute slow dinghy-ride away. The other side offered a breath-taking view of the aquamarine sound, framed by beach below, palm trees on the side, and gray-violet clouds above.
North-facing from Driftwood Trail Shroud Cay viewpoint. Exumas, Bahamas.
The mangrove ride more than made up for our sleep-deprived wee hours of the morning. The breeze shifted to wind as we approached the exit back on the Western side of the island. Waves exploded in a 20-foot airborne stream of white mist as they slammed against the seaward rocks. “The fun part of your ride is now over,” Christopher deadpanned. Christopher, as he’s wont to be sure you know, is usually right. Today marked no exception. Foolishly, Wayne and I waited too long to don our foulies before we exited the creek. We were a quarter of the way back to our boat, and thoroughly soaked before Wayne noticed Chris and Chris beaconing us back to the creek’s entrance. We retraced our ride along with Chris and Chris until we exited where we entered the calm-water mangroves, at a point closer to where our boats were anchored.

In the interim, the wind increased its velocity, with chop to match. 

Chris & Chris of s/v Scintilla, aboard their dinghy in Shroud Cay's mangroves. Exumas, the Bahamas.

We agreed to help Chris and Chris get their dinghy aboard as they mount it on their foredeck, enough of a hassle they avoid using their dinghy whenever they can. The formerly glassy seas churned, a bubbling mass of aqua and whitecaps amidst three-foot waves. In addition, Scintilla was rocking violently, bow to mast, every few seconds.

We sent Chris and Chris to the seaward side of their boat, where they placed a step alongside their hull to make it easier to make the three-foot step from their dinghy to their deck.
We positioned ourselves on the opposite side, to bounce from the high point of our inflatable dinghy’s swing to hoist ourselves on deck, supporting ourselves on Scintilla’s thick wire cables for mainsail standing rigging. I caught my daypack between their upper and lower safety lines, stuck while Wayne became increasingly distressed from repeatedly becoming airborne inside our dinghy while trying to hold it in place alongside the bucking Scintilla.

Responding to Wayne’s shouts and his concern observing the awkward position of my knee, Christopher dashed over and yanked me through the safety lines, once I also moved my camera, which also hindered my escape as it jutted from my shorts pocket. Wayne leaped aboard and secured our dinghy as soon as I got out of his way. Christine, meanwhile, bronco-rode their dinghy, on the other side of the boat. Once aboard, she valiantly leaped back aboard her dinghy to attach a bridle to lessen the weight of their hefty fifteen-horse outboard. We dragged her aboard and Christopher used his mainsail halyard to haul their dinghy aboard, with Wayne pulling it from the front and Christine and I guiding it over the stanchions and lifelines onto the foredeck.

I brushed aside Christopher’s concerns about my knee, though as usual, he was correct, I did torque it. Years of sports and an easily panicked mother taught me to brush my pain aside until later.

Wayne and I turned down Christopher’s invitation to relax and have a beer aboard Scintilla, and instead jumped back into the fray, making short albeit tense work to return to our boat, clamber aboard and secure our dinghy. We expected the winds to continue to build.
I discount "red sky in the morning, sailor take warning" but when clouds take on bruise-colored shades,
I'm on alert!
“Too bad you didn’t get pictures of any of that,” Wayne commented, referencing our adventure once we left the protected mangroves. I reminded him the last thing he wanted me to do when we were in the middle of sh*t was to take pictures instead of paying attention to safety. “Pity,” he agreed. That means you get to see the pretty stuff but need to read to get the dramatic stuff.

The winds continued to build, though once they shifted to the Northeast—as expected a few hours later, around sunset—Gallivant’s motion calmed, despite 25+ knot winds. That night we enjoyed a glorious sunset and even a green flash, our view no longer obscured by a superyacht, like the previous night. Our view of the stars was also clear, with night vision unhampered by superyachts who irradiated the area with lights nearly as bright as a Times Square Christmas tree.

Considering, we slept relatively well. I awoke a little before 9 am. 

I set about making bread, as the last of our second stale loaf of gluten-free bread, purchased from Fort Pierce two weeks prior was finally gone.

Once again, Gallivant and Scintilla were the only boats in the anchorage. A little later, as I was about to pop my bread into the oven, Wayne noticed we were the sole remaining boat. We didn’t hear Scintilla’s radio hail or their departing calls as they circled the boat. We raised them on the VHF radio and found out weather guru Chris Parker’s radio forecast today provided the calmest weather to move in the next 3-4 days. They were bound for Warderick Wells, the best all-around weather protection in the Exumas. We made sure there was an available mooring and followed, once I pulled the bread out of the oven.

My first loaf of gluten-free bread cooked in s/v Gallivant’s oven became fish food because I unknowingly tripped the propane off while it cooked. The loaf top’s lovely golden-brown, dry surface deceived me—the bread was three-quarters raw, a gooey mess inside when I turned it out to cool. I’m still learning the ins and outs of an oven that up until this point seared the bottoms of my baked goods. This time I set my loaf pan inside a Pyrex dish with some water—it definitely slowed down the bottom cooking. Next time, less water, longer bake time.

No snorkeling or kayaking in Shroud Cay this time. No kayaking and snorkeling stop at Hawksbill Cay, in between Shroud and Warderick Wells. When given a choice between safety or adventure, we opt for safety. Maybe we’ll get another chance to peruse Shroud or Hawksbill by kayak or snorkel on our way back to the States.

Regardless, the Exumas, the Ragged Islands, and Eleuthera offer plenty of opportunities for fun. 

Was Shroud Cay worth it? Yes. Though if we knew before we chose it that we’d get a strong Southerly and an early Northwesterly before the area finally settled into a Northeast blow, we would’ve tucked behind Norman Cay for our first night, then bypassed Shroud for the protection of Warderick Wells. We’d cross our fingers the weather would make a visit to Hawksbill and Shroud on our way back.
Wayne, manning our dinghy through Shroud Cay, the Bahamas.


Location Location
This is a retrospective of March 6-8, 2021, mooring in Shroud Cay at 24 31.980N 76 47.911W. We lacked sufficient WiFi for this post for a while. We are currently in Staniel Cay, headed for Georgetown tomorrow—or Lee Stocking Island if we can't day-trip it all the way to Georgetown.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Our Bilge Alarm Works! How We Found Out . . .

S/V Gallivant, sailing at a 15-degree tilt as an 18-knot wind angled at our boat's bow.
Gallivant is a a Gulfstar 45; we were sailing the Bahamas Banks to Nassau.

We ended our excellent day of sailing from Bimini to our anchor point on the Grand Bahamas Banks with a bit of a head-scratcher. . . "Hmmm, that doesn't make sense. According to our engine hour-meter, we only turned the engine on for six-tenths of an hour."

In fact, of the eight and a half hours we sailed, we ran the engine for five hours. For five hours of an engine run, our voltage was inexplicably low. It would be equivalent to driving your car all day, and wondering if low batteries would prevent any electrically powered systems from working—lights, instrument panels turn signal indicators . . .  The difference is, most of us don't live in our cars, and on a boat, the engine batteries power most of our systems—refrigeration and freezer, lights, the water pumps . . .  Our navigation systems also rely on power: our GPS/charplotter, our instruments to track the wind and our pace, our autopilot, our windlass [which drops and retreives our anchor], our radio communication . . .

We don't spend much time plugged in to power on a dock, so when an engine run isn't recharging our batterieis, it's an issue.

One of our lighter moments of the day: this hitchhiker, as we approached Nassau, Bahamas.

Wayne figured out the two issues—the recharge failure and our engines stopped hour meter were related; that whatever wasn't giving accurate hour-meter readings was linked to a disconnect between our engine run and our battery voltage. Once again, I am incredibly grateful for Wayne's mechanical skill. I don't believe we could do what we do without it.

We could've run our Honda generator to fill the gap, but we were pinching the wind on our passage, which meant we were sailing at too much of a tilt to safely run our generator.

We didn't want this to happen!
Photo by insung yoon on Unsplash
Meanwhile, we also discovered our bilge pump alarm works quite well! 

Justifiable reason to panic.
Photo by 
samer daboul from Pexels

When you hear that bilge siren scream, it's a warning that if you don't sort out the problem, your boat could sink. Wayne pulled out our boat's system digram outlining all the boat's thoughulls and bilge pumps, and then frantically pulled up our floorboard—painfully crunching his thumb in the process—until he found the source of the problem.

Due to the pitch we were sailing, our galley sink water drain hose went into reciculation mode, sending one of the bilges into re-cycling rather than draining the water out. This caused our bilge pump to go into overdrive. We slowed down, which, along with a bit of wind shift in direction and drop, our boat leveled out and the problem stopped. 

Chris(topher) and Chris(tine) of s/v Scintilla stuck nearby until they were confident we could safely limp into Nassau.

S/V Scintilla, sailing into Nassau Harbour. We were close behind, and led the way to the anchorage.

This car carrier slipped into Nassau Harbour right before us, delaying our passage to anchorage.
With a mix of sailing and motoring, we completed our 75 nautical mile passage, and arrived in Nassau in time to anchor before sunset. 

S/V Scintilla, with a taller mast than ours, makes it under a Nassau Bridge—barely.
It sure looked like out mast tip came close to grazing the low point if the bridge underside!
Given at 2 am or so the prior night (or, technically, earlier that morning), chop brought on by a brisk wind assertively hobby-horsed our boat, with a rocking motion from stern to bow and back, over and over, tugging on our anchor. When the time came to set sail at first light, we were already awake, but not well rested for the passage. Our anch held fast—a little too well—as it initially didn't want to come up when the time came.

Did I mention we were tired?
After arriving in Nassau, Wayne devised a temporary work-around for our hour-meter and charging system. It's not perfect, but it will work until Wayne puts the time in to do the more extensive rewiring to return it to working properly without requiring manual intervention on our part to turn the engine hour-meter on and off inside the engine room.

Location Location

Sun sets over Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas. View from our anchorage.

We're in Nassau tonight, 25 04.564N 77 18.652W, though the issues cropped up on the Grand Bahama Banks. Tomorrow we'll head to Shroud Key in the Exumas, as there's a wicked weather front coming in that will foroce us hunker for shelter for a while. We don't want to spend the next 10 days or so in Nassau, so we're getting while the going's good. We we likely be out of wifi range for a while.

Atlantis Resort, Nassau Harbour. We anchored a bit past it, locating closer to
the less glamorous but more practical fuel dock and marine supply stores.
We'll be far from anything like this in the Exumas.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Grand Bahamas Banks: Gliding the Turquoise Desert

We zip across 12-20 feet of a beautiful turquoise desert. 
Glassy water in the Grand Bahama Banks.
When the water is as clear as it is in the Bahamas, it takes a while to recalibrate because everything seems closer underwater than it actually is. It's tempting to leap off the boat and sink your feet into the sand. It looks like you'd be in waist-deep water, but you'd be in over your head. I already doused myself a few days prior when I stepped off the dinghy because Wayne was  sure if he went much further he'd grind our outboard shaft on the bottom. Instead, the water was neck deep! Across the Bahamas Banks, it's 12-20 feet.

S/V Scintilla, with Chris(topher) and Chris(tine) as we transition from Bimini to the Great Bahamas Banks.
S/V Scintilla, as usual zips faster than we do, as we left Bimini together, buddy-boating to our next destination.

Chris(topher) and Chris(tine) at the island across from Brown's Marina, Bimini, Bahamas.
I call the Bahamas Banks the blue desert because we saw very little sea life—a few flying fish, some starfish, a couple of stingrays discernable only by their distinctive outline on some patches of seagrass.

Sailing the Grand Bahamas Banks, between Bimini and Nassau.

Still, it's impossible to not be entranced by the water. As the sun drops on the horizon, pieces of sky shine up to us, reflected off the water's surface.

We wanted to avoid an overnight sail. In 2014, on a day this calm, we anchored on the Bahamas Banks (click here for more about that magical experience). We did so again, to bypass anchoring at Chubb Cay, and at the same time, to break up the 130-nautical mile passage between Bimini and Nassau. 
Sunset at anchor on the Bahamas Banks.

"This is what we left the Pacific Northwest for," I told Wayne, as we embraced on our foredeck, savoring the sunset. After supper, like the last time we were anchored on the Banks, we sat down on our foredeck, gazing up at the sky. This time we saw cruise ships parked off in the distance, mothballed from lack of travelers unwilling to deal with the COVID travel restrictions. But directly above, we took in the starry sky, and oohed and ahhed to at last renew our acquaintance with the Milky Way.

And, also like 2014 the area remained glassy-calm—right up until about 2 a.m., but I'll save that for the next post.

Location Location
We sailed from Brown's Marina in Alicetown, Bimini for 53 nautical miles, to anchor over a small portion of the Grand Bahama, 25 37.01N 78 31.85W. This is a retrospective of the day before yesterday. We are currently anchored off Nassau.
Wayne and me on the Grand Bahamas Banks, shortly before sunset
.