Friday, March 16, 2012

Sand Dollar Beach - Georgetown

Hog Cay on Long Island was a beautiful place and at sunset we saw the green flash - fantastic!

We fished today on the route to Elizabeth Harbor (Georgetown) and caught four fish. One was a large Mahi Mahi, but she got away AFTER we landed her on the boat. I was sick about that. It was rocking and rolling pretty good from the sea swell. She decided to put up a good fight once on deck and through off the lure and the gaff and on a good roll of the boat, she just slipped right off the aft deck back into the water. That disappointment was mostly melted away when we caught a bull Mahi Mahi - and kept him! After that we had a double hook-up. We put the jib away and drifted while we both fought fish on the aft deck. To our surprise, they were sail fish. One was hooked in the lower jaw and the other in the bill. Myron was able to pull each one up and remove the hook and they both swam away - hopefully wiser.

We are anchored back at Sand Dollar Beach and I am ready for a good nights sleep.

Love to all,

Posted via wifi.
{GMST}23|30.762|N|075|44.877|W|Anchored|Sand Dollar Beach - Georgetown{GEND}

Thursday, March 15, 2012

(no subject)

Hey All, Dena and I had a easy motor-sail north along Long Island to Hog Cay. We plan to sail and fish to George Town tomorrow. Very pretty spot here but private so no walks on the beach.

Peace to ll

Posted via Ham radio.
{GMST}23|36.263|N|075|20.601|W|Anchored|Hog Cay{GEND}

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Thompson Bay

We arrived here yesterday afternoon. We are disappointed to report that the autopilot gave out after the first hour of an eight hour journey. Since the recent autohelm installation was all new except the very old motor, the motor became highly suspect. The seas were too rough for any kind of diagnostics while underway, so Myron will take a hard look at it today. We are having significant tides right now, which makes for significant tidal currents, and it was no fun hand steering when an 18 to 20 degree heading correction was required due to current. The helm was light enough, it was just hard to hold a course with no land or other visual reference. We pulled out all the gear for 'Windy' our wind vane and, praise God, we managed to install the tiller arm underway without a hitch. Myron got all of Windy's other necessary gear working and she took over the helm - splendidly too with twenty knots flying over her paddle. Our track provides an indication of the current effect and wind shifts on Windy. Broken gear is a part of cruising and I have heard the saying many times now "Cruising is just fixing your boat in exotic places."
One piece of equipment I hope never fails is our GPS. The Explorer Charts highly recommend holding close to the routes for the Ragged Islands since most of the area is uncharted. We proved out their disclaimer when we discovered by dinghy a number of reefs that were not on the charts. On Friday a large cat named 'Amazing Grace' sailed north from the Raggeds about the same time as us. Amazing Grace was broadcasting AIS which allowed us to see their position on our chart plotter. They continued north at Water Cay ahead of us, but not on the recommended route. We speculated that they departed the route to head toward a dangerous reef because they wanted to dive or fish that area. Subsequently the skipper called us and asked if our GPS was working. He discovered that their GPS had lost its accuracy. He seemed sure that the reef was incorrectly located on the charts, yet on our chart plotter what he saw and what was charted appeared correct. We are not sure the cause but had heard that solar flares might affect GPS and they were certainly affecting our Ham and SSB reception. Amazing Grace made it fine through the hazards though not without a little stress. Our GPS/chart plotter lined up with our visuals and our soundings - but I could not imagine trying to navigate the Jumentos, Raggeds and transitory channels with their three knot currents without GPS!
We will relax for a bit here at Thompson Bay. Yesterday we had a brief time on land for some internet, a walk and the purchase of chips. We will not have much internet at $5 per hour - I expect this posting will be accomplished by Ham. The chips are for a conch salad I plan to make today. The walk provided some needed giggles. A sign outside the car rental place stated "Competitive Rates - Unlimited Mileage." How many miles could one get? "It's an island 'mon."
Love to all,
P.S. - The new autopilot motor was installed in the time it took me to write this post!

Posted via Ham radio.
{GMST}23|21.427|N|075|08.015|W|Anchored|Thompson Bay{GEND}

Friday, March 9, 2012

Water Cay - Times Three

We decided that Raccoon Cay is a good place to wait out a blow. The holding was fantastic and there is a lot of swing room. We saw more animal life down in the Ragged Islands and that was encouraging. We had a sea turtle swim right up to Hold Fast, lift up its head, as big as any human head, and go back under us to forage. Sharks and rays were nothing new, but much more bird life, lots of terns, sand pipers, Spanish and mourning doves, mocking birds and other fish hunting birds. Of all things, we saw goats walking on the beach, nanny's with their kids.
It was also the furthest south we have been. We pulled out the Stellarium product to review the night sky. The Southern Cross was visible at about 2 am, however the almost full moon combined with the constant cloud cover from the weather never allowed us to view that famous sailors' navigational aid
In summary, the Raggeds and Jumentos are fairly solitary cruising. It is not for those cannot produce their own water and in essence be self-sufficient. There is no help out here, some of the passages are just hard work and all the anchorages have surge. These are primary hunting grounds for Bahamian fisherman and they will be sharing many of the anchorages. If you keep all that in mind when you visit, then you will not be disappointed in this region.
We left at o-dark-thirty this morning, figuring we would have just as tough a sail north as we did going south. We were pleasantly surprised though and only had a few hours of tough going. At Man-O-War Channel we started the engine to get us through a three knot tidal current with a tricky coral reef passage. I went down to do the normal engine rounds and the rough seas knocked my head right into the engine door fastener. It hurt like the dickens but made me laugh when I realized I now had a 'nit' on my noggin like Lucky Dog back at OYCM. Hopefully, mine will go away.
Our plan is to head back to Thompson Bay tomorrow and I think we mean it this time.
Love to all,

Posted via Ham radio.
{GMST}23|01.779|N|075|42.915|W|Anchored|Water Cay{GEND}

Monday, March 5, 2012

Waiting out Weather

We were pleased to see successive weather reports show a decrease in the impact of this frontal passage down where we are located. The forecast now seems to be holding for 20-25 knots and nothing predicted over 30 except possibly with squalls. What has not decreased is the duration of the blow, but we can pray and hope! As it stands, we will probably be tied down here through early next week.
We had something interesting happen today. Two guys, Jerrod (boat driver) and Paul (the diver), on a Bahamian fish boat tender came by to inquire whether we had seen another boat, similar to theirs, with two fellows on it. When we explained that we had not, they told us the disturbing news that the two fellows were missing since last night and were last seen at Nurse Cay. Their tender was one of the 19 that worked with the mother ship called 'Fish Farmer' with a home port on Andros. Fish Farmer is about 100 feet. The fellows on the little tenders go out and get lobster, conch and fish from the banks and the cuts, and return to the big boat at night. Jerrod and Paul explained the missing boat had no radio and they suspected their mates had run out of fuel. We were heartsick for these two men since we had the knowledge of the bad weather only hours away. We shared the weather forecast which sent a greater urgency into their search. We told them we would pray for their mates. They thanked us before they disappeared on the horizon.
Several hours and prayers later, Jerrod and Paul came back, but their mates had not been found. They had been instructed to wait at Raccoon Cay for Fish Farmer, as the big boat had traveled west on an extended search for the missing crew. We invited Jerrod and Paul aboard while they waited since the weather was now upon us and the rain was cold. Our experience thus far with Bahamians has been nothing short of delightful. It was no different with these two, even under the circumstances. We all showed our concern for the missing men in different ways. After hours spent talking and eating, we convinced the shivering diver to take some of our dry clothes and get out of his wet suit. Having talked ourselves out, we all went below to watch a movie. Shortly thereafter, the captain of Fish Farmer called on the radio to confirm that he was about to arrive in Raccoon Cay, but the other crew members had not been found. Within a few minutes we had several tenders around Hold Fast coming to retrieve Jerrod and Paul. They were full of smiles and informed us that they had indeed found the missing crew members, out of fuel but otherwise OK, and that the captain was only giving Jerrod a hard time. What a relief! Praise be to God for a happy ending.
Love to all,

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Raccoon Cay - Raggeds

Surprise! We did not go north today after all. The weather forecast changed and we will see less winds south than north, as well as less winds than were expected. We spied this nice anchorage on the Explorer Charts that should do just fine in a north or north east blow. Usually the best anchor holding is described on the charts as 'good,' this one is noted as 'excellent.' I am all for excellent. Now that we are here, we quite agree. It is mostly thick sand and our Manson Supreme has probably gone subterranean. We expect the blow to last five days and hopefully moderate after that. I am identifying projects I can work on while stuck on Hold Fast for the duration of the worst winds. There may be some squalls, but that is OK, Hold Fast could really use a good wash. After today's slog south in SSE winds at 15-20 knots, she is covered in salt up to her spreaders.
At this point, we are all by ourselves in this anchorage and we hope it stays that way for the blow. Better to only concern ourselves with our anchor holding and not have the additional concern of other boats' anchors. Besides, being all alone here makes us feel even more like we are sitting on the edge of the world. That feeling of solitude was really pressed home when we watched the sun set.
Tomorrow we will take time to walk on the beach and explore the cove by dinghy. We will also prepare Hold Fast for the winds to come. We are anchored in the southern portion of the cove tonight for the SSE winds and will relocate tomorrow to the northern portion. You should be able to see this cove by zooming in on the Google Earth map.
Love to all,

Posted via Ham radio.
{GMST}22|21.290|N|075|48.791|W|Anchored|Raccoon Cay{GEND}

Friday, March 2, 2012

Water Cay - again

We indeed had a pleasant night at Flamingo Cay, until 1:30 am anyway. Then it became quite rolly. We could still sleep through it, but the rolling was an indication of something sinister on the other side of the cay. Our sail today was proof of that, 4+ft swells coming through the cuts and 20 knots of wind. Our sail became a tighter and tighter reach into Water Cay. Hold Fast held around 6 knots, except when the current was exceptionally strong. We found the currents strong not only at the cuts, but also around the blue holes. Kind of spooky!

I failed to mention yesterday that upon returning from the beach at Flamingo Cay, I saw what I thought were two small sharks under Hold Fast. It spoiled the plan to go swimming. Myron looked into the water with his mask from the dingy and saw that they were Ramoras, specifically Sharksuckers. Research in our fish book revealed that they are not very discriminate in selecting a host and can attend vessels. They will even remain with Bull Sharks into fresh water. We were not sure if we picked them up passing a reef or if they lived in the cove at Flamingo. We do not see them now, therefore the latter must be the case. When our anchor neighbors came over in their dingy last night, one of the Ramoras swam out to greet them. They seem more like pets. We fed them this morning and I would have named them should we have stayed any longer.

Time to make lunch and get some rest. Tomorrow is a long day, 65% is on quarter stern, but the rest will be a tough slog into Thompson Bay.

Love to all,

Posted via Ham radio.
{GMST}23|01.783|N|075|42.923|W|Anchored|Water Cay{GEND}

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Flamingo Cay - Jumentos

We had a nice stay at Water Cay and it was good holding. As we proceed south, gone are our flat anchorages protected from swells. The swells have ample opportunity to come in through the cuts on either side of the cays. Today was a good sail down to Flamingo Cay, sometimes sailing at about seven knots, although we had to reach hard on the last stretch and were down to about 5.5 knots. The winds have subsided this evening, which is a good thing for us as I believe this anchorage could get very uncomfortable with a swell coming in from the south and refracting off the rocky shore to our north. But, and we thank God, it should be a calm night tonight with minimal rocking and rolling. Dave and Pam on Jubilee, a Gulfstar, just joined us in the anchorage. They came over in their dinghy and apologized for disrupting our solitude!
We have seen a change in the weather, they are calling for winds steady 25 - 30 and some gale force winds in the event of squalls. This forecast holds as far in the future as we can get a forecast (March 14). We respect it enough to scrap our plans to continue our route south in the Jumentos. We do not want to get stuck down there when we could be having more fun in the same winds up at Long Island (Salt Pond). We have learned it is too difficult to take our dinghy out in those kinds of winds unless we are in a harbor better protected than these Jumentos or Georgetown - and Salt Pond is just such a place. As a result, we plan to go through a cut tomorrow for some offshore fishing, then anchor back at Water Cay tomorrow evening. When the wind is most favorable, we will head north and east back to Salt Pond/Thompson Cay via Comer Channel. From Long Island, we can make our way back to Georgetown under those conditions to deal with our visas.
We have not given up on the Jumentos and plan to come back, possibly in April.
Such is life on the hook.
Love to all,

Posted via Ham radio.
{GMST}22|53.036|N|075|52.140|W|Anchored|Flamingo Cay{GEND}