Friday, January 24, 2014

Ahoy Exumas!!

Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, to Warderick Wells Cay, Exuma Land and Sea Park
January 16-19, 2014

Wednesday, Jan 15 – While we pushed to get our last blog update posted at the Shipyard (a new restaurant in Spanish Wells on the very eastern end of the island – the chips & pineapple salsa were delish!), the tide was just starting to come in, and the extended mud flat was just covered with water.  Great white herons were nabbing dinner; the oystercatchers had taken off.  While Fred was adding a few last-minute photos and proof-reading, Dorothy noticed fins moving through the water.  Since the water was so shallow, it was possible to get a good look at this 2' fish, actively stirring up the bottom as it moved along, and even a decent photo through the water:
A bonefish!  There were several more readily visible in the water, but not as big or as close.   We had heard of people spearing bonefish, but hadn't seen them.  Voila! 

Meantime, another cold front with strong north winds and squalls was due.  We had planned to head over to Royal Island at the end of the day, but had pushed our luck time-wise, and by the time we got back to the boat, it was nearly upon us:
Yet another cold front
Cold front dark clouds overtaking Spanish Wells
We decided to stay put on our mooring another night, enjoy another day in Spanish Wells, and move over to Royal Harbor the next day, in preparation for heading south to the Exumas on the post-frontal north winds, after the predicted squally day Thursday. 

Thursday, January 16 – Happy 24th birthday to Dorothy's son Ian!! 

Since we were still in Spanish Wells, we were able to send a happy birthday wish on the “day of”!!  Ian had just emailed excerpts from a letter Dorothy wrote to her mother when he was one year old, wherein his first and only word was “bop.”  Unfortunately, we don't have any photos from that age on the computer.  Drat!  Here is Ian in August 2013, relaxing and sailing with us in Rhode Island.  Ian, we are thinking of you!!
Ian Trombulak, August 2013
Here is the Bo Hengy fast ferry heading out of Spanish Wells toward Harbour Island.
Bo Hengy fast ferry
It runs daily (except for Tuesdays when they run the freight ferry with slightly different hours) from Nassau to Spanish Wells to Harbour Island and back.  Sometime we might like to come back and take the fast ferry over to Harbour Island … we hear the experience of going through the Devil's Backbone – an area that is so thick with coral heads that it is strongly recommended that cruisers not traverse it without a hired pilot – on the fast ferry is quite amazing.

We had noticed that Spanish Wells had a marine railway and removable piece of street, and we happened by when they had just launched a boat that had been worked on.  Below is a photo as they hauled the cradle blocks back in. 
Spanish Wells Marine Railroad cradle blocks
Dorothy also snapped a brand new yellow house with the trim being painted orange … I love the warm colors … but wait, I love the cool colors, too … I just love color!!  And the colors of the houses in the Bahamas are so lively!! 
A beauty!  Love it!!
Speaking of color … Dorothy paid a second visit to the Islander store, which happened to carry fabric.  Between the two visits, she has built a stash for many projects! 
Boat stash ... 
Now, finally, we bid farewell to Spanish Wells, which we much enjoyed.  Incidentally, we met a number of former cruisers who had bought houses there.  Hmmm …

After a brief sail over to Royal Island and nachos with guacamole for dinner, we were poised to head south first thing in the morning.  Dorothy was to be captain, and took time in the evening to chart our course for the day – from Royal Island, Eleuthera, to Allans Cay, Exumas!

Friday, January 17 – Having figured out how to create waypoints and routes on the chart plotter (finally) just before the trip south from Little Harbour to Royal Island, this was another good day for using waypoints, what with the navigation of going through Fleming Channel and needing to watch for coral heads in the Middle Ground of the Exuma Banks, which we would be traversing near low tide.  Dorothy got her waypoints entered and route created while Fred listened to Chris Parker (weather) on the SSB (single side band radio), then we set off, 7 am. 

Uh oh – engine blower fan no work!!  Taking out the panels on the galley and aft cabin sides of the engine to provide ventilation, we forged ahead.  Something to work on in the Exumas.  What would we do without a boat project!

Dorothy's thought was that, since the wind was to be light and from the north, we would fly the spinnaker, which had given us great speed in light wind in the Chesapeake.  We got the spinnaker up, but the wind was so light, and so directly behind us, and with 3-4' waves, that the spinnaker was slatting and collapsing.  We deployed the whisker pole to hold the spinnaker out, but the wind dropped to 4-6 knots, and we could not make enough way.  Our route for the day was 45-50 nm, with no alternative stopping point short of Allans Cay where we would have protection from the north.  Unfortunately, making 2.5 knots was just not going to get us there!  So we had to snuff the spinnaker and fire up the iron jenny – rats!!  We were bummed to motor on a north wind, but on the bright side, we got our batteries good and charged up, and we got to the Middle Ground area around noon, with great visibility.  We took turns on the helm and spotting on the bow, looking for areas of coral:
Coral ahead, look out!
Passing a coral patch
With good light, the coral head areas were easy to see, very black in the water.  As we got near the end of the coral head area, the cloud cover gradually increased, and it got harder and harder to see into the water.  We were glad to be through it, reaching Beacon Cay, below:
Beacon Cay, our first view of the Exumas
You can see in this photo how the cloud cover and light have changed!

By 1540 (3:40 pm), we were anchored in the channel between Allans and Leaf Cays, along with 15 other boats seeking shelter from strong north winds expected overnight – the last boat in.  (A catamaran came in around 6 pm, saw how full it was, and headed back out into the darkness … arg!)  We were more exposed to waves curling around the mouth of the harbor than we would have liked, and took a dinghy ride to see if there were any better alternatives further up the channel or around the other side of Leaf Cay.  Finding none, and with our anchor good and dug, we stayed put. 
Allans Cay anchorage
Big Rock to port quarter, Allans Cay anchorage
During our exploration, we learned from another cruiser that the current was strong enough that the boats swung at the tide change.  We did swing 180 degrees at 9 pm, then 180 degrees back at 3 am.  Dorothy got up and monitored to ensure we maintained adequate distance to our closest neighbor, and that the anchor held when we swung – all good.  After the 3 am swing, the wind picked up, and the anchorage got pretty rolly.  The ports in the forward cabin are SUCH a great feature of our boat, allowing us to monitor through such periods as we drift in and out of sleep. 

Allans Cay is famous for its dense population of iguanas.  However, we forgot all about going ashore to see them!  Next time!

Saturday, January 18 – Fred's turn to be captain today.  After the morning ritual of listening to Chris Parker, he got his waypoints entered and route created in the chart plotter, from Allans Cay to Warderick Wells Cay, where the Exuma Land and Sea Park Headquarters is located.  We hoped to get a mooring there, or, if none available, to anchor off Emerald Rock.  As we headed out from Allans Cay, one other boat had already left, one had come in after a rolly night next to Ship Channel Cay, and one had just dragged about 500' and re-anchored.  Apparently its anchor had come undug as the tide rose and the boat rolled and hobby-horsed in the confused waters generated by the current and now-heavier wind. 

What a different sailing day than the day before!  With north wind 15-18 knots gusting to 20, we started with reefed jib only, then eventually brought the jib out all the way, making over 7 knots at times.  It was a delightful broad reach most of the way, down the Exuma Banks in deep blue water.  We saw ten or so other boats also sailing down the banks.  Below is a boat behind us, unusual tanbark sails, also showing the blue color of the deep water:
Unusual tanbark sailed boat

As you get closer to shallower water and sandy bottom, the color of the water changes dramatically.  You can see both the deep blue water and the shallower aqua water in this photo:
Learning to "read the water"
Here is Captain Fred at the helm, thoroughly enjoying the great sailing today:
Captain Fred -- a great sailing day
We had radioed the park service at 9 am, and learned that no moorings were available for tonight.  The charts were iffy as to whether there was enough water to anchor close enough to shore to provide good protection from the north, but prospects were good enough to give it a shot.  As we made our turn between sand bores toward Warderick Wells Cay, with the wind still 18 knots gusting 20 and full jib out, we rolled the jib up about half way rather than trimming the full jib, thus tightening up for the close reach, reducing sail for easier furling soon, yet maintaining speed.  Masterfully executed, Cap'n!!

As we got closer in, we found the protection was adequate.  We nosed around and found enough water outside the park mooring field, anchoring in 7' at almost low tide (we draw 5'), putting out 90' of chain, 9:1 scope even allowing for a tidal range of 3', as there was plenty of room, and continued winds over 15 knots expected. 

Below is Emerald Rock, which it should be fun to snorkel around (as well as other areas) in the next few days as the wind dies down and it gets sunnier.  Shown near low tide:
Emerald Rock, Warderick Wells, Exuma Land and Sea Park
We dinghied over to the park headquarters, seen in the distance in this photo, which mostly shows the incredible color of the water:
Exuma Land and Sea Park, Warderick Wells Cay
Can you believe that color?  Seriously!!!  Over by the park headquarters, boats on park moorings:

We were thrilled to find our friends there, Guy and Pika on Tina and George and Alison on Wyvern III!  We had a cup of tea and caught up with Guy and Pika on Tina, then a delicious curry dinner and fun evening with all on Wyvern III, including six hands of Uno, of which Guy won five!!!  (We kept playing until someone else won, just to prove it could be done!)  Guy and Pika had cruised many times in this area, and Guy annotated our Explorer charts with some great places to snorkel, anchor, and visit. 

Sunday, January 19 – We listen to Chris Parker's weather forecasts “religiously” at 0630 Monday through Saturday; Sunday is everyone's day to sleep in.  Hurray!! 

Windy today, Fred working on the engine blower, me writing the blog.  Fred discovered the blower is shot.  It did come on when hot-wired before, then it did with a manual push on the blades, and now it is just plain dead.  We know they have one in Spanish Wells, so we can get one then, if not sooner, in Staniel Cay.  In the meantime, we will leave the engine compartment open when running the engine, for ventilation.
Fred in the port stern lazarette
Dead engine blower fan -- there's always something!
Even though it's windy, it's a gorgeous, sunny day.  With all this work done, maybe it's time for a hike!  Bye for now!

1 comment:

  1. Still going strong! For some reason I've stopped receiving email updates when you make a new post, but fortunately I saw on Facebook that I'd missed some!