Thursday, February 26, 2015

Anchored at Hog Cay

We had a sunset cookout and fire on the beach one of the three nights we were in Buenavista Cay. We had gathered wood during the day and invited everyone in the anchorage via radio. As usual, most of the folks were too tired from traveling and it was a nice private evening with Elsa and Yaap from Sark. The sunset was glorious, although no green flash, and the evening turned pitch dark with a brilliant display of starts and a new moon. It was a perfect evening, until it was spoiled when I saw a scorpion scurry around one of the rocks in our fire ring. Since we were all barefoot, sitting on rocks or the ground, we were then constantly turning on our lights and looked at the ground around us. We called it a night and did our best to launch our dinghies in the small surf and head to our respective homes. I would do it again, but start earlier and call it a night before it got so dark.

Today we moved over to Hog Cay. Not much distance. We wanted to make water along the way and sail if it was convenient. It was not convenient. The tanks are topped off and we should be here for the several day duration of an expected significant blow out of the east. We have not had internet for several days, and the service in this location is limited at best.

Jim on Salty Paws is doing a class on the beach for close-up photography tomorrow, for a $15 donation to the schools of Cat Island. He said to bring whatever camera we have. He is a professional photographer and I am looking forward to it.

Love to all,

{GMST}22°15.12'N|075°45.17'W|2/26/2015|3:20 PM{GEND}

Monday, February 23, 2015

Buenavista Cay

I forgot one more item for Long Island: Scott is rumored to be one of the best outboard mechanics around. Patience is required, because he is also a fisherman with crew. According to our friends, it is worth the wait. We saw Scott Saturday and he was indeed preparing the boat and crew to head out on Monday.

We were into Water Cay last night pretty close to the beach. Still had some surge, that is just the way it is out here. We patiently worked out way out after picking up anchor. We sat on the bottom a couple of times but the surge would lift us up and help us along. There is no need to clean barnacles off the very bottom of the boat now. We were the first ones out again. I like the early start because I like to arrive between 2 and 3 pm to be able to read the bottom for good anchor holding. There were seven of us in the anchorage last night. Some were heading to Flamingo Cay, at least one to Jamaica Cay. We encountered a large fishing boat towing its 9 or 10 tenders and heading home. We also encountered five cruisers heading back north.

The winds were less than yesterday, but they did not die down as forecast. That made for a nice sail down. We also fished with a lure that did not seem to attract barracuda. We caught two fish. One got away and we only got half of the other because something (interpret shark) took half of it. We had enough left to make two fish sandwiches, so we are not complaining. We are actually pretty excited to catch a decent fish on the banks. We timed the Man of War Channel, which is about 4 miles across, for incoming or high tide. We probably should have been earlier because the stretch from Jamaica Cay to the Channel Cays is a rough patch on an outgoing tide. We had planned to make water, but waited until we had some protection from the cays north of Nurse Cay. As a result, we only made 51 gallons, but it will keep us from dipping into our reserve tank in the bow (about 80 gallons).

It is beautiful here, as always. We have already launched the dinghy and will go for a walk before 'no-see-um happy hour.' I am tired of donating blood to their procreation.

Love to all,

{GMST}22°25.91'N|075°50.04'W|2/23/2015|3:22 PM{GEND}

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Long Island Update from Water Cay

The locals in Salt Pond and Thompson Bay were told there is a rumor that there is nothing to do on Long Island. We chatted with Basel and he said a boater told him such is the word among the boaters. Just because the Long Island Breeze shut down does not mean all is lost. Penny is now doing the cruiser net every morning, somewhere between 8 and 8:15 am, depending on if she gets distracted in her garden. Her call sign is 'Fair Haven' and she has a house off Thompson Bay with a green roof and solar panels. She keeps everyone informed of current events in the area, as well as the basics like where to dump trash. Long Island Petroleum (LIP), as we mentioned before, has repair goods and even 134A if you need to top off your refrigerant. Basel's daughters and brother run the place, but you can often find Basel there helping pump gas. LIP is also where the propane truck stops every Wednesday to fill boater's tanks. Next door to LIP is the new regatta site/cultural center. There is a sailing club that meets now and again and they have graciously installed FREE wifi that anyone can use, anytime, while sitting in the shade of their covered seating. Just look for 'chesterfox' and there is no password. The folks in the tourism office are really helpful and have now created storage for a book exchange. We met Craig and his wife at Seafarer Marine. We were blessed to find out that he answered the call to be the pastor at First Assembly there in Salt Pond. They have worship services on Sunday at 11 am and Bible study at 7 pm on Wednesday nights. We attended both and were blessed by it. Craig also has a construction business - busy man. Basel's other son, Marty, has a plane and flies charters in/out of Long Island. The grocery store usually has what you need, if not just ask. We wanted coconut bread and they ordered it for the next mail boat. We got four loaves for our trip to the Jumentos. On Saturdays, there is a farmer's market. We loaded up on locally ripened tomatoes, local bananas and locally made jams such as pineapple, mango/coconut, and papaya/passion fruit jam. Perfect on coconut bread. There is a roadside restaurant called 'Sou side,' a lot of folks meet there for happy hour on Fridays. There is also a woman that runs a gift and liquor store and she will post mail, which she did for us. Everyone that hitch-hiked to points north or south got rides. The islanders are friendly and helpful. The holding in the bay is phenomenal. So if anyone says there is no point in going to Long Island, you straighten them out!

We had hoped for good winds to sail to Water Cay. For the most part we saw upper teens, gusting more. But we were enveloped by 3 out of 4 of the squalls we saw along the way, which steal the wind, then spit it back at you at some odd direction. Sails up full, then reefed, then mizzen down. Much work. The seas got big and sloppy and we should have reefed the main at one point. We were hand steering for a while. When we turned on a different point of sail, I figured the auto pilot could handle it again, but a few good gusts with peaked seas and she made the main do a quick jibe and back. I saw that something was different with our wind vang. When Myron investigated he found that one of the blocks that gives us 20 to 1 purchase on the boom vang had broken its weld and exploded. Jettisoned. We have no idea where it went. It departed the boom vang and we are just glad it did not hit us or anything else on the boat, like the solar panels. We both scanned the decks, not a single ball bearing to be found. Myron has already made a fix on it, but we just found it mighty curious. We will ask Garhauer about it when back in the states.

There were at least five boats behind us, including our Dutch friends on 'Sark.' Early bird gets the closest to the beach. So we are tucked in and will probably get the least amount of surge, but I imagine there will be room for everyone. Pretty hard to find anything really protected at Water Cay. It is typically an overnight stay before heading to better anchorages further south. We may stay more than one night, however. We prefer that the seas calm down more before we cross the Man of War Channel.

Time to make a coconut water/ginger beer drink, relax and watch everyone else come in.

Love to all,

{GMST}23°01.78'N|075°42.88'W|2/22/2015|3:13 PM{GEND}

Friday, February 13, 2015

Back in Thompson Bay

For the most part, our stay at Dollar Harbor was a dream. The blinding brightness of the white sand and turquoise water was surreal. We explored almost every river in and out of there and walked the beaches on the south side. The sand flats that surround the harbor are not for walking. The sand is soft and we would sink into it, wondering if we could get our foot back out. We discovered a couple of aspects of the anchorage when we had a pre-frontal trough and two fronts linked to the same low come through in a 36 hour period. One item is the strong sustained southwest winds, 30 knots, pushed a lot of water onto the banks which reduced the effectiveness of the protection from seas by the shoals around us. The other aspect is that the sand we anchored in, while normally good holding, was light sifted sand that allowed our anchor to creep in prolonged gusts of 35 knots or more. It was only a creep of an inch or so at a time, which more than 10 hours of such winds amounted to several feet. We re-anchored closer to the windward shoal and slept fine the remainder of the blow. As to the current, we found Hold Fast would turn partially toward the wind, like she was hove-to, and create a slick that calmed down the seas and let the dinghy ride quietly on the side. She only did her current dance when the wind was directly opposite the current.

On Wednesday and Thursday, once the winds were 15 knots or less, we rode around in the dinghy seeking a deeper route out of the harbor, rather than so close to the rocks on the west point of Dollar Cay. We used the boat hook to test depths and were pretty confident in a route that we tried out on Thursday. High tide did not come until around 2 pm Thursday, but we figured we had enough water around 1 pm, when the chart showed 1.8 feet over datum at Clarence Town. Our new route was deeper by four feet or more, until we got to the sand bar well outside the harbor. There was no changing that part of the route. By the time we got out to that bar, the tide was a little more than 1.8 feet over datum, and we saw the same shallow depths as when we came in.

Our focus on Thursday, besides a successful exit of the harbor, was to fish the drop offs nearby. After a few hours of fishing, in over 400 feet of water, we had a double hook-up. It turned out to be two substantially sized barracudas, cockroach of the sea. We were both getting discouraged. But we kept at it. Then Myron found a scum line and followed it toward another drop off. We had a big hook up that took a lot of line down deep and bent the rod into a scary arc. We wondered if the rod was going to break. We took turns working the reel and the helm. At one point I thought I saw a shark approaching our catch, but it was submerged trash in the scum line. When we got the fish alongside, the excitement peaked as we realized it was a yellow fin tuna. What a fighter. Tuna is so stout. This one was 38 inches long with a girth of 23 inches. We caught a larger tuna in the Sea of Cortez, but this was so far the largest we have landed in the Atlantic waters. After that fight, I wonder about catching anything larger. We will need to do repairs to our blue and white tuna plug.

We knew we would have a sail back to Thompson Bay during the night, but that was the price we were willing to pay for a fishing opportunity down south. And the trip was made all the more sweet knowing we had more than 20 pounds of yellow fin tuna in the refrigerator!

We hope to catch tonight's Bahamas Tourism festivities at Salt Pond. They told us we needed to come back from Dollar Harbor for the party. The word got out and there must be more than 20 boats in the harbor. I need to get going so we can RSVP and sign up for an appetizer. A walk would feel good as well.

Love to all,

{GMST}23°21.39'N|075°08.04'W|2/13/2015|11:07 AM{GEND}

Friday, February 6, 2015

Anchored in Dollar Harbor

Last night we had an unexpected pre-frontal trough push through, rousting us out of bed with a squall. Squalls are exciting enough in a protected anchorage, much more when anchored in the open on the banks. It made us suffer with fetch for over an hour after it left us. We thought that meant our NW winds were in for the night, but then the wind turned back to southwest. It was confusing to both us and the water.

We both managed what sleep we could get. Our plans to fish were abandoned as we ran out of time going from the banks around to the entrance to Dollar Harbor. During our approach I was on the bow to call out coral heads, but then a squall was upon us. That always adds a little fun. We used the Clarence Town tide tables on our Garmin chart plotter. We reached the shallow entrance bar at 2.0 feet over datum. Myron drove the suggested route on the Garmin/Explorer Charts and plotter and all we saw 7 feet on the shallow bar. It appears to still be good entrance intelligence. Beyond the entrance bar and from Dollar Cay on is where things seem to have changed from the latest charts. The sand has really shifted around and the entrance has become narrow. We ran along close to Dollar Cay and then turned to port to stay in blue water, yet careful to avoid the sand bar reaching in from the west. We hoped to anchor at the entrance of the 'Snakes' (tributaries) for less depth and therefore less scope for anchoring, but the depths held around 20 feet. We concluded we liked the scenery better back in the main channel and dropped here. Since we expect gusts into the 30's, we have over 7 to 1 scope in good holding sand.

After we arrived, the day become sunny and the wind calmed down to about 10 knots. We did some initial exploring but knew our time was limited before the blow was upon us. Myron took advantage of the calm to make the repair on the outboard with the part Paul brought us. All that is accomplished, the boat and dinghy are put away for the blow and it is here.

Last time we were in Dollar Harbor, we only stayed one night. We hope to get many more days this time and explore all around. We will plan out some expedition days, coordinated with good weather and tides. These bright white sand flats, as you would notice if you zoom in on the Google map, are all around us with little tributaries ripe for investigating, as well as empty beaches.

By the way, we have a faint BTC connection. Another plus for this place. Why are we here all by ourselves? I think it is because this is a tough place to get into, the weather and tides have to work out, there are few alternative anchorages around, and there are no stores or bars. All the more reason to stay for a bit once you get here!

Love to all,

{GMST}23°11.14'N|075°15.12'W|2/6/2015|2:38 PM{GEND}

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Near Nuevitas Rocks

Only an overnight stay at Thompson Bay as it appeared to us that the weather forecast would provide an opportunity to go down to Dollar Harbor. The wind is forecast to clock from south to southwest to west. It was our goal to time each leg of our route with the wind change. That meant that we hung out at Long Island until just before noon. We went into town to drop off trash and meet with the ladies at the Tourist Office. While we were chatting it up with them, we met Sara and Monte Lewis. If those names sound familiar, they are the founders of the Explorer Charts. We told them our plans to head to Dollar Harbor. It seemed to tempt them. I do hope the make the trip. Lovely couple.

We also made a trip to Long Island Petroleum, the gas station side. There was no need for any fuel, but we wanted some Jamaican Patties. They are similar to the empanadas that Natalia (Taia) makes, only the dough they are wrapped in is curried. We got both beef and chicken and had a blast with the sisters that run the joint. I saw a small bag of Cracker Jacks and Myron had to tell the story about the Walmart in NC where he told the cashier that the last Walmart that did not have Cracker Jacks burned down. The sisters at Long Island Petroleum thought it was hilarious. They have a sense of humor. Silence at the NC Walmart, no sense of humor.

A note about Long Island Petroleum: They have supplies for your boat like motor oil, good Deka batteries, heavy duty truck antifreeze, JB Weld, oh?and Jamaican Patties! The sisters are very helpful. It will not be as cheap as the states, but when you need a battery or something like that, it is good to know you can get it there.

Our plan is to fish the drop off early morning and then enter Dollar Harbor. We love that harbor, but it is a difficult entrance. We need to enter on a high tide and have little to no southerly swell. Hopefully that all works out tomorrow. If not, we have a back-up plan.

Time for some rest. Love to all,

{GMST}23°11.64'N|075°22.37'W|2/5/2015|7:11 PM{GEND}

En Route to Dollar Harbor

We left Thompson bay around 11:30 EST for Dollar Harbor.
We are having a great sail.

{GMST}23°18.73'N|075°30.05'W|2/5/2015|3:27 PM{GEND}

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Thompson Bay - Long Island

Just a quick note to let you all know that we left Georgetown and are staging for the next adventure. After taking care of chores, we left late, sometime after 12:15 pm, but the winds were favorable and building. We dropped anchor about four minutes after sunset and are tucked in for a blow from the east tomorrow.

We had a good time in Georgetown, attended church in town for the first time, went to the Friday Fish Fry for the first time (and went twice!), took the dinghy to the cove at Goat Island, anchored Hold Fast off the Monument for the first time, and managed to get TV reception just for the Superbowl. I am glad we were able to watch it on our own boat since it went so late. Great game, except that I was pulling for Seahawks. A pass, really? Oh well.

For lunch today we finished left over thai curry conch. I could have it every day and Myron feels the same. But variety is the spice of life and we hope our next adventure will produce a fish, preferably tuna. But hey, I would be thrilled with mahi mahi or wahoo! Certain weather events need to come together for our next adventure to happen, so I will just tell you about it after it happens.

Love to all,

{GMST}23°21.43'N|075°08.00'W|2/3/2015|8:26 PM{GEND}