Exumas Southbound
Highborne Cay - Tuesday Apr 26 
Tuesday - All of us met around 9 am to discuss the weather prospects.  Iffin and Sea Angle decided to head out and Kindred Sprits will wait for calmer weather tomorrow and meet us at Highborne Cay, where we plan to spend a couple of days.   We topped off with 200 gallons of diesel, filled up the water tanks, and headed out around 10:15.  As we cleared the Nassau point to starboard, the waves started building.  First hour and a half was messy, about 3 feet on our nose, until we started angling south.  We avoided the Yellow Banks, with its numerous coral heads, and decided to go more south and then east.  By the time we made the eastern turn, the waves had diminished to 1 to 2.  We worked our way into the anchorage on the western shore of Highborne and had to anchor three times.

First time we were too near the anchor of a sailboat that was leaving early in the morning.  Second time I thought I had the boat in neutral when it was really reverse, and we moved backwards away from where we wanted to be.  Third time worked.

Anchorage is surgey, but not uncomfortable.

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Wednesday - We decided to snorkel on Octopus Garden near slack tide, around 11 am. Slight problem with the generator this morning, when it stopped charging after an hour.  Don't know why. 

Peter and Nancy have a toy that Barry covets, a flashlight type depth sounder by SpeedTech.  All we have is a lead line - which Barry left home.  We also cannot find our old sailboat ladder, last used around 20 years ago, which I think will make it easy to get into the dinghy after snorkeling.  We're sure it's on the boat, but have no idea where.  Peter and Nancy are checking the depths of the shoal channel leading from the main anchorage up to the small one near Octopus Garden.  They have no keel, so rocked a lot more than we did last night.

Snorkeling was a mixed bag, but we learned several lessons.  Main one was to anchor on the lee side of the reef, not the windward side.  Then I can swim towards the reef and let the current push me back to the dink.  I haven't snorkeled off a dinghy for around 25 years ago, and I wasn't too good even then.  Water kept getting in my mask and the current was too strong for me, even though I wore a life jacket.  I finally got to Sea Angel's dinghy, which was closer, and climbed in.  (I did see some pretty coral and a bright blue parrotfish.)  Barry had tied our two dinghy lines together and hung them off the side to make a foothold for me to get into the boat.  Unfortunately, he forgot to pull it up when he started the dinghy motor and the line caught in the prop.  That's the second thing we learned.  After he got it free, the engine wouldn't start!  We motored over to him and gave him a tow, and after a few minutes, Iffin's motor started.  Barry zoomed on ahead, and then Peter's engine quit!  The gas line had come loose but was easily fixed.

Nancy and Peter decided their boat was slipping and as long as they had to re-anchor, they headed for the Octopus garden anchorage, about a half mile away.  They didn't take the shortcut we had measured.  At low tide, the shallowest part had 3.5 feet, which should make the shortcut doable at high tide, but why take chances?  They took the longer way around and re-anchored.

 

Hawksbill Cay, Thursday & Friday, April 28 & 29
Thursday - Kindred Spirit and Iffin waited until the sun was high enough to see the coral clearly and we left for Hawksbill Cay, whawere we can explore the beaches.  Sea Angle picked up some dinghy gas at the marina and followed.  The ride was one of the nicer ones we've had, although the wind hit 23 at one point. We headed for the long beach, where two sailboats were on mooring ballsl, aiming at an empty mooring.  Our first try got the mooring, but we lost it, and the second try failed.  We gave up and anchored, as did Kindred Spirit.  Sea Angel went for the same mooring and picked it up around the fifth try.  The line was just too short go get it onto the cleat.

Once anchored, we headed for the beach and took the trail over the hill to the rocky beach on the east side.  We climbed "stairs" of old limestone.  At some point, the island most have been covered in water, since the limestone was pitted and holed as the water wore it away.

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We sent email to the family through the ham radio connections, but have no idea if they received it.

Barry is crushed!  DirectTV wouldn't work and he can't figure out how to make the VHF or DVD players work on the salon TV.  They will play into the stateroom TV, but he doesn't feel like being closed in below while he watches.  So tonight was the first dinner we cooked and ate by ourselves, with no TV, in about 15 years.  

Friday - We finally had a fairly calm night and woke to a 10 knot southeast wind and quiet water.  At nine, Laura called to the Land and Sea Park on VHF 09 and made "reservations" for tomorrow.  We'll know tomorrow at 9 if we got the mooring balls.  The Park Headquarters has Wi-Fi (for a price) so we an finally get our email.

We had plans to explore the old Loyalist ruins, just north of the anchorage, at 11, but the dinghy wouldn't start. Why do things keep breaking?  After pulling the damn cord around 25 times, we gave up and sent Peter and Nancy on without us.  After waiting 20 minutes, the engine started, and we met up with them.  We climbed to the ruins of the old Loyalist homes from 1780.

 

Warderick Wells - Sat. thru Monday, April 30 to May 2
Saturday -  We headed out to the Land and Sea park in the best weather we've had so for.  10 knot SE winds and calm seas on the banks.  We pulled into the north mooring field at Warderick Wells around noon - pretty close to slack tide.  Now the fun part - grabbing our mooring ball.  We were assigned to ball 10, near the bottom of the giant "J" of the mooring field.  Miraculously, we picked up the mooring on the 2nd try, although our screams and yells were heard by all the boats in the mooring - and probably by those still five miles out.  I've read that most marital disputes are over sex and money.  That was obviously stated by someone who had not tried picking up a mooring ball from 8 feet off the water.  Barry got it once and lost it, since the painter is so short, even through he had immediately threaded our anchor line through it.  The second time, I stayed at the wheel until the anchor line was securely wrapped around the cleat.  Then a boat came in to the ball on our port side - and we got to listen to them yell and scream.  We had just dropped our dinghy, so Barry motored over and helped them tie up.  Nice to know other people have the same problem, and WE didn't drop our boat hook into the water!  Of course, our special boat hook is 12 feet long.

If we were one inch shorter, we would have saved $10 a night, but it all goes to a good cause.  A 50 foot mooring is $30.  We signed up and went back to the boat to prepare for the cocktail party at the beach Tiki hut tonight. 

There are about 8 or 9 boats here.  At the party, we met three couples on different sailboats, all of whom had either crossed the Atlantic or circumnavigated.  A "fancy" boat came over with a tender around 30 feet long!  They were Venezuelan.  One of the sailboats was French and one was British (him) and German (her).  We talked for a long time with Andrew, the manager here, who gave us lots of history and other info.  When researches come for a few months to study the island, the mailboat brings all their supplies to a private cay about 10 miles away.  Then the Parks small boats all go out and bring the stuff here - that is, whatever has arrived.  Andrew said the success rate is about 50%.

There is a native species of "rat" called a hutia in the Bahamas.  Several were put in the part 12 years ago and have multiplied like rabbits, eating a lot of vegetation.  The Bahamians are in a quandry - they're an endangered native species but they are overrunning the island!  They're working on a solution.  As soon as dusk arrived, so did the hutia.  They look more like overgrown gerbils than rats. 

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We purchased Internet for $10 and finally got in touch with family and friends.

Sunday - We all walked to the top of BooBoo Hill, where it's the custom to leave driftwood with your boat's name on it.  The other four went down to the beach on the eastern side and found a long driftwood board, which they brought back and left at the Tiki hut.  We dinghied out to the reef, but didn't feel like snorkeling.  Dinner tonight will be at the hut (each bringing his own food) and then we'll decorate the driftwood.  We put all three boats on the same piece.  Added the dates and a turtle, MTOA and an Iffin.

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Monday - Decided not to leave today since winds are around 17 with gusts over 20.  Last night one gust hit 24 knots, according to our wind indicator.  Barry stayed on the boat while the rest of us walked back up BooBoo and left our driftwood, next to Insight and Adventures, so we have a small MTOA section. 

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In the afternoon, at low slack tide, I went out the the sand flat around 10 feet behind the boat.  We tied an extra long line to the dinghy and I got in while Barry fed out the line.  Then I placed the dinghy anchor and walked in water that was about 8 inches to 2 feet deep.  Nothing can be taken from the Park, so I saw around 4 live Queen conch and a blue crab.

Pulllng Barbara In.JPG (1807188 bytes)   Sand Flats.JPG (1307452 bytes)

Friends of Nancy and Peter on Oasis, which is on a mooring ball in Cambridge Cay, dinghied over (large and fast dink) to visit them and invited us all to join them for dinner tomorrow night.

 

Cambridge Cay - Tues thru Wed, May 3 to May 4
Tuesday - After listening to a somewhat iffy morning forecast, we decided to head for Cambridge Cay anyway.  Winds picked up to 23 or so again, but we stayed as far east as we safely could and the waves weren't over three feet.

Getting into Cambridge involves some skinny water and one stretch of beam seas when we crossed the Bell Island Cut, but the beam seas lasted only 3 minutes and we were into a beautiful anchorage surrounded by small islands.  It's the calmest we've been in.  We had trouble picking up the mooring ball, because of the wind, but the "harbor hosts" are  Bill and Mary Russell on Harbor Reach, an MTOA boat, and then dinked over to help hand us the painter. 

We met Dan from Oasis, who was sailing around in an inflatable catamaran which Barry was eying enviously.  We and Kindred Spirit later followed Dan, carrying Nancy and Peter, to the Seaquarium, a beautiful small sheltered reef about a mile and a half away.  I just used the "looky" bucket and everyone else snorkeled.  Loads of fish.  Blank and yellow striped Sargent Majors, a queen angelfish, many yellow tails and a huge spiny lobster.

Barry Snorkeling.JPG (2140740 bytes)   Seaquarium.JPG (2069477 bytes)

At 5:30 we dinghied to a small beach near the moorings for cocktail hour and then went to Oasis for grilled pork and lobster.  The long ride to Seaquarium seems to have solved the starting problem with the outboard.  Now it starts right away and then shuts down in 30 seconds.  Always something.

Friday - Dan and Trish led us to Rachel's Bubble Bath on Compass Cay.  You walk up a shallow creekbed to the Exuma Sound side of the island, where a pile of limestone rocks keep the water from rushing in.  Instead, at high tide, the water splashes over the rocks and into a shallow pool.  It reminded me of when I was a kid, trying to "jump" the waves at Morse Beach.

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Later, we went to some shallow sand flats off a beach, looking for shells and finding a beautiful live starfish.

Barry Starfish.JPG (55367 bytes)

 

Black Point - Thurs. May 5 to Friday May 6
Thursday - We decided to leave at 9:30 am, close to high tide, since we planned to go out the southern exit, which can be five feet at low tide.  I had charted a course down the west side of Compass Cay, with lots of twists and turns through shallow water.  Lady Victoria (former MTOA members) went out ahead of us and I called them on the radio, found that they had done this route many times before, and decided to follow them instead.  A slightly longer route, but much deeper and straighter. 

Beautiful cruise down to Black Point Settlement, where we anchored in 10 feet of water off the Government Dock.  After lunch, we all went ashore to explore.  Black Point seems around the size of Bimini, but much cleaner.  Good news, bad news about Internet service.  They have it, but right now the town is putting in a new generator, so there is no electricity.  Should be fixed "in a few hours."  The one grocery that was open (Adderley's Friendly Market) had little in it, but the supply boat is due tomorrow with fresh produce.  We met Agnes, who sat outside of her home across from Lorraine's cafe, plaiting palm fronds into 4" wide woven strips.  Other women on the island make them into purses, which are then sent to Nassau for sale.

Black Point Anchorage.JPG (1894486 bytes)

We met Lorraine's mother (the baker) and ordered a coconut and a cinnamon raisin bread for tomorrow, and then made dinner reservations at Lorraine's Cafe.

We arrived early for dinner so we could hook up to the internet (small donation for electricity and upkeep).  Good thing.  We arrived at 5:50 and didn't leave until 8:45!  VERY slow internet and no Skype allowed.  Perhaps the 6 or 7 people all trying to get their emails had something to do with the slow service.  Dinner, however, was great, even through we ordered at 5:45 and didn't get served until close to 8.  We all had either cracked conch or red snapper.  Cracked conch is somewhat like deep fried clams, with a lighter batter.  Unless it's done right, it can be tough, but Lorraine did it right.

Lorraines Internet.JPG (1846843 bytes)   

Getting back to the boats in the dark wasn't the most pleasant experience, but we had left our anchor light (and amber sidelights) on when we left so it was easy to pick out our boat.  Navigating in the dark with some chop in the water was the hard part. 

Friday - The Mailboat arrived!  This is like the "Wells Fargo Wagon is acomin' in" from Music man.  Food, mail, supplies - all arrive once a week and the town shows up to greet the boat and get their stuff.  Grocery shopping is done the day the mailboat arrives - or the fresh produce is gone. For an idea of Exuma prices:  a three pack of romaine lettuce was $6, tomatoes 50 cents each, bananas 75 cents and a pound of carrots $2.50.

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