JANUARY---Big Majors (Exumas) to Hog Cay (Jumentos)
New Year's Day 2012......anchored at Big Majors just north of Staniel Cay in the northern Exuma Island Chain. What can I say ? Just another day in Paradise with sunshine and a breeze from the northeast. Invited Jerry and Barb (KUBAYA) and Kris and Craig (TILT) over for ham dinner and Carl's favorite "green bean casserole". The guests helped out by bringing appetizers, salad, roasted potatoes and dessert. Planned to play Sequence after dinner but it suddenly started to rain hard. Kris & Craig had open hatches on their boat so they quickly left (sopping wet by the time they reached the boat). Jerry and Barb stayed until it stopped raining. No Sequence New Years Day!
Appetizers before New Years Day dinner. On the left is Jerry, Craig and Kris. On the right is Carl and Barb.
The next day, Carl raced on NOCTURNE in the Staniel Cay Cruisers' Race. TIDA WAVE (Bahamian A Class Boat) raced with the cruisers--first to cross the line. Next to across the line was a catamaran. NOCTURNE was third across the line....the first monohull and a good finish. Len and Izzie (NOCTURNE's Captain and First Mate) purchased tickets for the awards ceremony followed by dinner later that evening for crew and their guest. Was reluctant to attend the awards ceremony in Staniel Cay because a strong cold front was approaching but oh, we threw caution to the wind went anyway. The dinghy ride over to the ceremony and dinner was fine.....seas were pretty flat. Glad we "braved the weather" for the awards ceremony. It was lots of fun (basically every boat was honored) and the dinner was darn tasty (pork or chicken with the traditional Bahamian sides of cole slaw, peas n rice and mac n cheese). Just enough light from the moon for the dinghy ride back to the boat in the dark with relatively flat seas. Once again.....glad we ventured out on a questionable evening.
The photos below were taken at the Staniel Cay Cruisers' Race Awards Ceremony. Top left is Pam (DEJARLO) and NOCTURNE's guest (sorry can't remember her name) relaxing before the ceremony started. Top right is NOCTURNE's Captain, First Mate and crew. The winner of the Bahamian Race, TIDA WAVE, held on New Years Eve participated in the Cruisers' Race. Bottom left is the Captain of TIDA WAVE . Bottom right is the Captain's wife (only the bottom half of the wife)!
The nasty weather held off until after midnight. By early morning, the wind was blowing 25 knots with gusts to 30 which continued to increase until the sustained wind was 30 knots with gusts at 35-40 knots. While the wind howled we spent most of the time reading (love our Kindles) or napping. The holding at Big Majors is excellent so little reason to worry about the anchor dragging. It is a tough life isn't???
FINALLY on January 5th--- pulled anchor and left Big Majors. The anchor had been in the same spot since December 15. Sailed 8.5 nautical miles (nm) to Black Point in light northerly 10-12 knot winds. Black Point, Great Guana Cay is the second most populated settlement in the Exumas after George Town. As soon as the anchor was set ......loaded up a month of dirty clothes and headed to the laundromat. Did five loads of clothes at the nicest laundromat in the Bahamas. While my laundry was in the dryer...had the owner, Ida, cut my hair. She cut a good inch off so I lost my "big hair" look (which quickly grew back by the end of the month). My hair gets very big in the salty windy Bahamas. Put in an order for bread with Lorraine's Mom and had lunch at Lorraine's Cafe (shared cracked conch and fish fingers with Carl . Hurried Back to the boat to make the bed and put laundry away before returning to Black Point for Happy Hour at Scorpio's . Scorpio's pulled in a a large crowd of cruisers. Good music....two of the young female waiters danced with the cruisers.What a busy day. The next day was almost as busy. Started the day at the laundromat while Kris had Ida cut her hair. Then Craig, Carl, Kris and I went for a walk to the blowhole to look for sea glass. Lunch at Lorraine's Cafe---once again cracked conch and fish fingers but no sharing this time! Picked up two loaves of Mom's coconut bread.....the best you can buy anywhere. Ended the day with a game of Sequence with Kris and Craig---the girls won every round.
Bags holding one month of dirty clothes ready to go to Rock Side Laundry.
Happy Hour at Scorpio's. Drink specials and appetizers plus free wifi!
When we left Black Point .....headed to the Exuma Sound via Dotham Cut so Carl could fish. Destination--Galliot Cut for the night and then George Town the following morning (weather forecast had better sailing conditions the next day). Caught two sized mahi mahi so invited KUBAYA and TILT (who came down from Black Point to Galliot on the bank side of the island chain) for a mahi mahi dinner. In the afternoon, before TILT and KUMAYA arrived, we listened to North Dakota State University (NDSU) play Sam Houston for the Division I AA football championship. Picked up a unsecured wifi signal at the anchorage (most likely from Musha Cay where there is a resort)). The NDSU Bison are the 2011 NCAA Division I football champions having defeated the Sam Houston Bearkats 17-6. This is the ninth national football championship and the first Division I national football championship NDSU has won.
On the left--One of the mahi mahi caught between Dotham Cut and Galliot Cut. On the right--the other mahi mahi caught between Dotham Cut and Galliot Cut going on the cleaning table.
Sailed close-hauled from Galliot Cut to George Town in 15 knots of east wind. Dragged two fishing lines all the way without even one bit. Sailed most of the 41 nm trip---that is all but 30 minutes when our speed over ground dropped below 3 knots and the last 30 minutes when headed directly into the wind in Elizabeth Harbor. Dropped our anchor at Volleyball Beach. Quickly fell into our George Town routine: Volleyball Beach at 2 PM each day to watch volleyball and visit with other cruisers; dinghy to town for internet, dump trash, groceries and fuel; and general socialization! Bob and Bev (SAVAGE SON) came over for dinner and a game of Sequence one night. Talked with them about going to Conception in a day or so if the weather was good.
Hurricane Irene blew down the Volleyball Beach Sign Post. When we left George Town, a project was already underway to freshen up some of the signs, make the post longer and add new signs.
A good weather forecast for a trip to Conception Island. When DISCOVERY had 60 feet of water below the keel (outside the cut), had three fishing lines out. Carl had purchased another hand line to increase the odds of catching a fish. Not one bite---good thing we increased our odds. Sailed all the way to Conception in east southeast winds at 10-12 knots. DISCOVERY was the tenth boat a line of 12 boats headed out the cut at George Town (all headed to Conception). DISCOVERY was the first of the 12 boats to drop anchor at Conception. Even with light winds....we moved. Did what is called a "horizon job" on the other boats. Conception Island is a National Park under the protection of the Bahamas National Trust. There is question as to whether the park is a Land and Sea Park or just a Land Park. Land Park means nothing on the island is to be disturbed--no shelling or collecting of anything. A Sea Park means you can take nothing from the sea. Have heard that it is now a Land and Sea Park but haven't seen anything official on this. People were hunting for lobster when we were there. That island is fantastic with beautiful beaches and trails. The water is pristine. Went snorkeling....the coral is beautiful with lots of reef fish (it is like swimming in an aquarium). One day we took our dinghy up the creek to watch sea turtles. The sea turtles love to swim around in the shallows where the water is warm. The wind was blowing so it was a challenge to see the turtles on the bottom. Attended Happy Hour on SAVAGE SON along with Michael and Robin (SEABISCUIT). Tim and Linda (MATSU) invited us over for pizza along with MERLIN and FAWKES. Tim and Linda are headed back to the Eastern Caribbean. Can't wait until they return to the Bahamas at some point in the future.
After telling my good friend Pam about how beautiful Conception was she said, "I hope you took a lot of pictures". Well, it is hard to capture the beauty of Conception on camera (at least for me). Top left is Carl standing on the bow as we sailed over to Conception--happy guys isn't he???. Such a beautiful day and such an easy, comfortable sail. Top right is a few of the boats anchored in West Bay.
One afternoon we took the dinghy up the creek (with a paddle and a dinghy motor) to watch the sea turtles.
Returned to George Town motoring all the way. while dragging three fishing lines. Just a little west of Cape Santa Maria (northern tip of Long Island) we caught a Big Eye Tuna. The tuna was the perfect size.....fit on the cleaning table and enough meat for two dinners and one lunch. Anchored at Sand Dollar Beach (Elizabeth Harbor) where we met up with Chris and Karen (SYNERGY). First met Chris and Karen in the Jumentos last year. Good to see them. They invited Bob, Bev and us over for Happy Hour. Back in George Town just in time for another windy period. Winds on in the mid-20's gusting to 30 knots. for two days so a great time to clean the boat, read and relax.
On the way back to George Town .....a Big Eye Tuna decided to bite the cedar plug lure. Oh that tuna was delicious.
By Tuesday, the winds decreased to 15 gusting 20 knots. Made plans to go to Thompson Bay, Long Island on Thursday and then on to the Jumentos which means last minute provisioning, making sure the tanks are full of fuel and a stop at the bank for money. Moved DISCOVERY over to Kid Cove (anchorage closest to George Town) to make it easier to complete our chores. Carl jerry-canned diesel to fill the tanks. Had lunch at Eddie's Edgewater and bought groceries. That evening, SEABISCUIT and SAVAGE SON (also anchored at Kid Cover) came over for pizza, salad and Sequence. Wednesday Carl jerry canned more diesel and gasoline and had the propane tank filled while I went with Bev and Robin to do laundry. Moved the boat to Volleyball Beach in the afternoon so we were close to Chat-n-Chill for Rockin' Ron and Kool Karen's first dance on the deck. Had a great time at the dance.
Love Rockin' Ron and Kool Karen's dances. Below are pictures taken during the dance. Cruisers know how to have fun!
Left George Town with light northerly winds (5-8 knots increased to 12 knots late afternoon). Motored while dragging three lines over the banks. Carl caught a King Mackerel. About 3 hours out of George Town, Bob called us on the VHF Radio to let us know that SAVAGE SON's engine cooling system was not working. Asked Bob if he needed a tow--we would turn around if he needed us to. Bob thought they could sail all the way to Thompson Bay. SEABISCUIT was behind us but ahead of SAVAGE SON. Michael slowed down to assist Bob if necessary. Waited for Bob and Bev to get anchored......then Carl went over to see what he could do to help. There was nothing that could be done to help with this problem (the repair required a machinist to make a new part ). Early evening Bob, Bev, Carl and I rode in the dinghies to the Long Island Breeze for dinner which was very subdued. Checked our email because it would be a while before we had access to internet.
Below is a picture of the King Mackerel--yuck. .
DISCOVERY continued on to the Jumentos while SEABISCUIT and SAVAGE SON stayed in Thompson Bay to deal with the SAVAGE SON's cooling system problem. Wind was northeast at 8 to 10 knots (not enough to sail) so it was a motorsail day. A couple of hours into the Comer Channel, Carl noticed the alternator was not working. Turned the engine off. Took Carl about 90 minutes to take the old alternator out, put in the spare and switch from the dumb regulator to the smart regulator. While Carl worked on the alternator, my job was to find enough wind to keep us moving! When the installation was complete, started the engine and continued motorsailing to Flamingo Cay. Cooked the King Mackerel Carl caught the day before for dinner......one taste and the mackerel went overboard. Our fishing book says "edibility depends on the recipe". It was awful and frankly I don't think there is a recipe in the world that could make that fish edible!!!!
Basic information regarding the Jumentos: They are a crescent shaped chain of islands about 110 miles long. The Jumentos are located on the southeastern edge of the Great Bahama Banks at the Crooked Island Passage. The entire island chain is often called the Ragged Island Chain although sometimes the islands (cays) are referred to as the Jumentos with the Ragged Island Range as a separate entity. The only "inhabitants" live in Duncan Town on Ragged Island plus a couple people on Jamaica Cay and one guy (Edward) on Buena Vista Cay. At times there are 25-30 cruising boats in the southern cays and several commercial fishing boats from Long Island, Spanish Wells or Ragged Island fishing or lobstering from Water Cay to Little Ragged Island. Cuba is only 60 miles away from Little Ragged Island so you can often hear Spanish conversations on the VHF Radio. Cruisers headed to Cuba will often go through the Jumentos. The water here is pristine and the cays are rocky ...covered with scrubs/brush.
The next day we sailed to Raccoon Cay in wind from the east southeast at 18 to 20 knots beating to weather for 55 nm. There are NO raccoons on Raccoon Cay only goats. The cay is about 3 miles long with several anchorages. The cay has numerous ruins and pasture walls. Long ago, Raccoon was worked for salt by Loyalists. Attended a Happy Hour Trash Burn the evening of our arrival and then dinner on SYNERGY. Chris and Karen had caught two mahi mahi the day before so the main course was mahi mahi---I made a pan of peanut butter brownies. Great food and even better conversation. Stayed at Raccoon for three days. Typical routine: Chris and Carl went hunting while Karen and I hiked the trails. The trails were poorly marked so Karen and I gathered stuff from the east side of the island to mark the trail (flip flops, gallon containers, things that could be suspended from a tree limb, etc.). Chris had good luck hunting so he passed on some tasty fish to us (Hog and Margate). One morning, saw a waterspout in a squall line that was approaching Raccoon. Carl and I checked the furled sails to make sure they were secure while keeping an eye on the waterspout. Fortunately, the waterspout went back up into the squall line just before passing over the southern end of Raccoon Cay.
Karen and I picked up stuff that washed in from sea onto the rocks on the east side of Raccoon (Crooked Island Passage side). Markers can be anything but I particularly like the "odd thing". Below are some examples of raw materials and a actual trail marker.
When the waterspout was headed towards Raccoon.....did not have time to take a picture (too busy making sure everything was secured). Did get a picture of the squall line--the waterspout just pulled back up into the cloud before reaching Raccoon. On the right is a bucket of fish that Chris shot (Margate on top and three Hog Fish below).
Sailed to Hog Cay with east winds 18 gusting 20 knots. The first 40 minutes of the trip the sailing was fantastic that is until changed course---directly into the wind. Fired up the iron jenny for the rest of the trip. There are NO hogs on Hog Cay....only goats. Supposedly the island was used in the 70's and 80's for raising cattle (don't see how cattle would survive on the island because there is no water source and nothing to graze on). The island has a few ruins, an old salt pond and several pasture walls. Several well marked trails to hike. Settled into a routine here in Hog Cay. Seems like every other night there is a gathering on the beach (Happy Hour with appetizers followed by trash burn or Potluck Dinner followed by trash burn). In the afternoon people gather for Bocce Ball. When there are no beach activities planned......get together friends for dinner or appetizers followed by a game of Sequence. Walk the trails to the east side of the island to look for sea beans (Hamburgers, Purse and Mary Beans) and sea glass. Took the dinghy into Duncan Town on Ragged Island one day to use internet and purchase gasoline ($7.00 a gallon). Duncan Town was founded by a Loyalist who built salt ponds with slave labor. These salt ponds are still worked for personal consumption. The Ragged Islanders do not depend on tourist trade.....many of them fish for a living. Internet is available in Duncan Town either at the school or in the gazebo behind the government building.
The pictures below were taken on the east side of Hog Cay during one of my searches for sea treasure.
Carl bought conch from Fat Cat and Monkey Man. Fat Cat cleaned the conch for us so all we had to do was prepare it (make cracked conch).
One of the Trash Burning Happy Hours with appetizers. Only burn plastic and paper. Wash the cans and crush them for disposal when we return to George Town.
The pictures below were taken at the Potluck and Open Grill Dinner. On the left you see Carl---the fire keeper. On the right is Maxine Wallace dishing up her plate. She came out from Duncan Town to have dinner with us. Maxine owns a small grocery store and takes special orders from cruisers which she passes on to her daughter in Nassau. The daughter puts the items on the CAPTAIN C for delivery to Duncan Town. Maxine hold the annual Valentine's Day Party.
The pictures below were taken on another hike to the east side of the island. On the left--my walking partners Kathy (SCOTCH MIST) and Karen (SYNERGY). On the right---me (Karen insisted that she take a picture of me.)
Oh, yeah the weather. The weather pattern that established in January was unusual for winter. Very few cold fronts penetrated into the Bahamas--the cold fronts weakened or dissipated before reaching the central Bahamas. Without cold fronts.....the easterly trades established (rarely falling below 15 knots and most of the time the trades were at least 20 knots with gusts). The anchorages in the Exumas, Conception, Long Island and Jumentos all offer protection from easterly winds so it has been very comfortable. Lots of excellent dinners from the sea--mahi mahi, conch, margate and hog fish.
This month Carl had to deal with a few boat issues. Discovered a crack in the face of one of the pressure gauges on the watermaker. Ordered a new one (Keith on CAMELOT will bring it with him to George Town). Found a leak around the water facet in the Captain's Quarters that needed to be fixed. The leak was near the wire harness with all the wires to the mast. Water dripon metal parts results in corrosion. A couple other problems that I won't mention. I only bring this us to let those of you who read this log know that cruising is not ALL fun and games.
January 01, 2012