Friday, March 09, 2007

Back to Nassau!

Dear reader...below is a day by day report of our trip back to Nassau from Staniel Cay. Hope you enjoy text and pics and comment or write to us.... Remember if you click on a picture you get the big version. Then the back arrow (it points left at the top of the screen) brings you back to the blog. Got that Dad?

Friday 3/2/07 From Staniel Cay (24 10.3 N 76 26.7 W)
To Chicken Cay (24 16.5 N 76 32 .2 W)

We really enjoyed Staniel Cay. This will be the end of the trip for Leah and Jason so now it’s time for us to head back north and go to some of the places we skipped over on the way south. This will give us lots of information to be able to plan a nice vacation for them with lots of options depending on weather. (We would explore like this for any guests...just need some lead time!)

There’s supposed to be some good snorking around a little place called Chicken Cay. It is a U shaped cay opening to the north-east with room in the U for maybe 2-3 boats. We hope there is room for us. No problem. We work our way in easily seeing the shallow places and avoiding them. The water is so clear that ‘reading the bottom’ is easy in good lighting. Hurray! Nobody here but us chickens! We set the hook with no problem and, as is our way, sit for an hour or so and just make sure that we are not drifting. This anchorage would be untenable in any north-east wind as we are open to the sound that direction and you’d get a nasty swell/surge here. But our wind is supposed to be from the south and light so our U should protect us well.

While we wait we read a little of the history and facts about this place. At one time they excavated old conk shells to date them. Apparently this whole bank was dry land 15,000 years ago when more of the Earth’s water was tied up in ice. The only water was a thin channel running north of Cuba. Anyway, after excavating the shells they just left them in a big pile! Weird to see.

The snorking inside the U on the northwest tip was very nice. Widely spaced coral with lots of fish. We then took the dingy over to the southern rock of Rocky Dundas only a quarter mile away. This is actually the southern border of the Exumas Parks so no fishing here or taking anything. This rock has a cavern in its eastern side not unlike Thunderball cavern at Staniel. The tide is so low when we get there though that the cavern is dry and waves rolling up would make it tough to get inside. Oh well, the coral here is VERY colorful as are the fish. There is a big stand of Elkhorn coral which apparently there is not much left of around.

Another beautiful night ensues. No one joins us. There’s no noise. The water is crystal clear. Doesn’t seem fair.

Saturday 3/3/07
From Chicken Cay (24 16.4 N 76 32.3 W)
To Hawksbill Cay (24 28.0 N 76 46.0 W)
One of those Days...

Hawksbill Cay is supposed to be a very beautiful place but compared to what? Everything here seems beautiful to us but maybe there is a fine scale that we are not hip to yet.

Winds are to be light southerly and we’re heading north. We decide to just roll out the genny and see if we can coast downhill. We can but still need a little push from the engine. So for the next 4 hours we motor sailed our way to Hawksbill. Only one other boat when we look in the anchorage - a huge pleasure yacht. We have good light to work our way in between the few scattered coral heads and past the yacht which has anchored pretty far out. Sue expertly pilots the boat into about 4 meters of water which leaves about a meter and a half under our keel. It is nearly low tide so we can be brave with how shallow the water is when we anchor.

It IS beautiful here. Long sandy beaches and a high hill to the south with a cairn on top. Looks like a rocky patch to the south of our anchorage that might be good for snorking. We launch the dingy and go ashore, only about 200 yards. The beach is pristine. Perfectly smooth from the falling tide and not one foot print and not one stone. Looks like it was formed in a mold. There’s a path leading up the hill probably leading out to the cairn. There’s also something sticking up about halfway up the path. What the...? It’s a mailbox! I climb up to investigate. Inside the mailbox is a ziplock bag with a spiral notebook inside. Opening it all up I find that people have been using this as a guest book, signing their names, leaving dates and boat names. I have no pen and I’m not returning to the boat for one. Next time. At the top of this climb you have to turn right and work your way along the path to the cairn. Beautiful view from up here. The path is a little nasty in that it is pretty rugged and it is straight down on my right.

As I approach the cairn it looks like there is something on top. What is that? As I get closer I realize it is a lizard! A live one! He has won the lottery for great places for lizards to sun themselves! He didn’t seemed to concerned with me and allowed several pictures.

The tide here floods a little stream that you can explore by dingy at high tide. This is not high tide and the stream is nearly completely dry. Still an interesting area. I scattered a group of long skinny fish when I walked into the shallows. They looked like the young of the pointy snout nosed fish I see on the reefs sometimes. I really have to learn a couple of fish names.

That's Enee on the anchor right outside what will become a stream at high tide.

We return to the dingy and motor down one beach from which we can swim and snork. I don’t know what’s better, millions of fish like we had at Thunderball Grotto or just a few like we have here. With just a few you are nicely surprised when you see them and can actually look at them for a bit without your attention being snapped away by the OTHER amazing fish. Very nice.

We can’t believe there is no one here. No weather is coming in for another day or so. Seas are calm. Maybe everyone is already down in Georgetown. Maybe we’re the only ones who really go for the solitude.

Back at Enee I decide to finish scraping barnacles off the prop. I bought some gloves for this kind of work in Nassau and have just been too lazy to use them. As I don my snorking gear Sue says, “You might want to wait. I think I saw something in the water”. What? Well, I don’t see it now...probably a rock. I laugh and say, “Don’t worry. If there’s something in the water you’ll know right away. I jump in. Oh yeah, I’d say there is something in the water. How about a 7 foot barracuda laying right under and parallel to our keel!

You know how in the cartoons when a character gets suddenly scared they just rocket straight up in the air defying all laws of physics? I wanted to do that. It doesn’t happen. What I did is flail about and try to climb the swim ladder with my fins on. That doesn’t work. I got my knees on the first rung and got my fins off and got back on board. I was laughing so hard because that big fish was really there just laying there and looking at me (making yummy sounds I think). I imagine the fish thinking, “God I love this part...I’m so bad”!

We laughed some more and watched the sun go down. The big boat had already left so we had the whole horizon to ourselves. Once green flash.

Full moon tonight and as it rises Sue says,”Oh the full moon is coming up but I guess it is cloudy...wait that’s not clouds. Come look”. Oh wow! Who knew. A rare treat. A penumbral lunar eclipse! This is when the moon goes through our shadow but the sun shinning through our little bit of atmosphere makes the darkened face of the moon appear reddish. Only the very tiny bottom left edge of the moon is fully lit. As it rose the eclipse receded leaving the good old full moon.

This day was already pretty amazing and now topped of with a lunar eclipse. We can’t wait to show this place to Leah and Jason...without Bob the Barracuda.

Sunday 3/4/07
From Hawksbill Cay
to Highbourne Cay

Weather is predicting another front to come through later today and into Monday with heavy north winds. We’d like to be comfortably anchored before that. We make a little run to Highbourne Cay where we think we can get some decent protection from north to east winds. Weird day for us now...NO wind. I mean flat like Lake Michigan gets in July. We motor all the way to Highbourne. Highbourne is a weird island. It is ‘private’. That means if you don’t pay for a slip you are not allowed to, as they put it, freely wander about the island. Why are rich people so weird sometimes? There are a half a dozen mega-yachts in the marina and maybe a dozen houses scattered over this pretty big island. I guess I can see how we would ruin their vacation if we went ‘wandering about’. We anchor south of the marina and flush our holding tank. Take that!

Took about three tries to get the anchor to hold. That’s not what you want when preparing for wind at night so I took the other anchor out in the dingy with me to set a second anchor. This time I also took my compass. I knew that the wind was going to come from the north so I wanted to set the second anchor directly to the west of the first so I would be making a V with the two anchor rodes. It’s nice that you can see your anchor from the dingy! When I got on top of it I used the compass to shoot an east /west line and then looked at landmarks that would define that line. Now I know I want to drop the other anchor when I’m on that line and to the west of the first anchor.

The water is crystal clear and I look over the side of the dingy with my mask and snorkel looking for a sandy patch (and for baraccuda) to drop the anchor on. What an amazing array of junk down here! This is rare. I saw old anchors, a rudder, part of a wind vane steering system and an entire boiler! Don’t want to snag any of that stuff! Good luck. Finally found a place and dropped the anchor and returned the anchor rode to the mother ship. Sue and I snugged this rode up as best we could hoping that the anchor had set. To help it hold I sent down a kellet. This is a weight on the anchor rode that forces the rode to pull more horizontally on the anchor than would happen with chain and rope alone. We use a mushroom anchor with a snap shackle attached so that we can snap it onto the anchor rode and then send it down on its own line. What fun...and MORE fun when I get to haul all of this up tomorrow!

The wind does build as expected. I’m not comfortable with all of this ‘anchorage’ so decide to sleep in the cockpit and keep and eye on things. No problem though and I actually slept ok at times.

Monday 3/5/07

From Highbourne Cay
To Allen’s Cay

It was actually a quite rolly night as Sue will attest from the aft cabin. This anchorage, while protected from the north is still letting rolling waves in from the west and slapping Enee’s rump. Tough to sleep with that.

After listening to the weather we first decide to make a run for it back to Nassau. Wind is supposed to be around 20 knots from about 20 degrees. After thinking about it more that is going to be a pretty hard, close hauled sail for us and then we have to hang out in Nassau until Saturday with no really good anchorage. Instead we opt to just go the few miles up to Allen’s Cay (the one with the Iguanas) where we think the water will be flatter. Yeah...only a few miles.

It doesn’t matter how far you intend to go. If you’re ‘going go sea’ you better be really ready. We weren't. The wind was howling out of the north and the sea was heavy with sharp chop. No sail up because we really are only going about 5 miles. We’re making about 2 knots into the slop. At one point the jib unfurled itself because nobody had thought to cleat the furling line...only going 5 miles, right? Also, I had left the anchor locker lid it is flailing about and catching some wind but I’m reluctant to go forward in these seas. It will be fine. Finally, our wind generator, which we know will cut out and free wheel in heavy air does just that. I’m not climbing up to lash this either so it is buzzing like a turbine all the way there.

The moral of the story is that you have to pretend you are going to sea even if that is not your main intention. You should put up some canvas so it can be a sailboat and not a really lousy motorboat. In our case we could have steered off the wind with a reefed main up and made double the speed in more comfort. I KNOW all of these things but we just got sloppy today. Glad we didn’t have to go any farther than we did.

At Allen’s things were quieter and we got the hook down with no problem. We’ll hang here for a couple of days, clean up the boat, fix a couple of things, and then head to Nassau on Thursday when the weather has settled back down.

Tuesday 3/6/07 Staying in Allen’s Cay

Just a day rocking and rolling while we wait for this wind to tame itself a little. In the meantime we busied ourselves with preparing the boat for guests! That means turning the forward storage shed back into a comfy v-berth. We found places for everything and ‘threw out’ some stuff which means stacking it behind the companionway ladder with the rest of the garbage. Amazing how much garbage two people generate in a couple of weeks. Luckily the marina we are going to on Saturday will allow you to throw out your garbage for no additional charge. They’re not all like that.

In the afternoon the parade of boats started coming in. This water is fairly well protected so with the wind still building boats were looking for a place to hide out for the night. Still not too crowded and almost all the boats are upwind from us so if they pull THEY have the problem!

Wendnesday 3/7/07 Allen’s Cay back to Nassau!

We listened to Chris Parker in the morning and heard the good news that we’d have a good wind to sail back to Nassau with. 15-20 knots east-northeast and we’re sailing a course north west. Perfect wind for Enee! And a grand sail it was! We went out with the main reefed as we usually do. Once out there the wind was probably more toward 20 knots and gusty. Seas were a little rolly too so we only unrolled about 3/4 of the genny. We sailed pretty flat that way although we were busy at the helm with the waves coming abeam. We went 7+ knots all the way to Nassau! Sweet.

In Nassau harbor we anchored near the eastern harbor entrance. Took us about 3 trys to get the anchor to hook but then it hooked very solidly. Our exploration of the northern Exumas is complete and we’ve claimed in the name of King Daley and the beautiful town of Chicago. Everyone in Chicago is welcome to come down as soon as the parking meters are installed.

Seriously, it was really fun exploring so that we could show Leah and Jason a really good time while they are with us. We would do the same for anyone who wanted to ever join us on part of this trip. Give us a little lead time and we will explore a region for you so that we can show you a very nice vacation (weather permitting). All you need is air fare . . . oh, and bring beer! ($40/case in Nassau!)

While on the hook in Nassau we (Sue) cleaned the entire boat, sorted laundry, fixed a couple of nagging little things. We decided to go to the marina a day early on Friday so we have two days with the convenience of being hooked to shore to take care of laundry, grocery, internet, and party supplies (beer). We are so excited to go back to the Exumas with our favorite guests! A full report on sailing with Leah and Jason when we get back to Staniel Cay next Saturday. They’re flying out of there and we will press south to Georgetown.

Thanks for all comments! C’mon...say hi!


deborah said...

sounds like fun. hope you and the family have a great vacation. your pictures are amazing.

Anonymous said...

Love your descriptions, feels like I'm there!
Sally - in "warming up Ohio"

Brian said...

When do you get the DNA results back?

Running Jayhawk said...

I absolutely adore looking at your photos!!! Makes up for all the cold, dreary Chicago days we've been having!

Gary said...

So did my fishy friend clear up that little constipation problem you were having?

Remember your physics:

What goes up - must come down and what goes in - must go out. Especially, with a large smiling carnivore floating beneath Mr. Jolly and the twins.

Speaking of dicks - the President is in Latin America. Maybe he'll stop and say hello on the way back. Give him a hug on our behalf. That's assuming Chavez doesn't scare him away.

I'm beginning to really love the Prez - he's totally destroying his party. The only one who will have him is Ann Coulter - but, that's cause she's attracted to the criminally insane.

Kisses from Madame Meow and the Young Prince.

Yours, up to the teeth --

Chairman Meow

Rich P said...

Glad to see there are other readers out there who hate W as much as I do. What a retard! And don't get me started on Ann Coulter, that biggoted bitch!

Thanks, Scott and Sue, for taking the time to keep the blog updated. I hand on every word (OK, not literally!)

Scott, 450 days to retirement for me, but who's counting! Wish I'd gone this year. Oh well!

floridaglades said...

Hate is such a strong word. I prefer loathe, abhor, despise, pity, eschew...

Anonymous said...

Hello from San Diego, Carnation here. thanks again for great reports and photos, you truly are doing a superb job helping us enjoy your adventure. oh yes, the river was green in Chicago today.
Stan and Judy