JANUARY---Staniel Cay in the Exuma Chain to Hog Cay in the Jumento Chain
Continue to Celebrate the Holiday Season around Staniel Cay :
January 1, 2011 anchored at Big Major Spot near Staniel Cay. Took the dinghy to watch the Annual Cruisers Race. Friends on HIGH STEPPER withdrew from the race after their mainsail blew out (before the race started). The Bahamian sailboat, TIDA WAVE, which won the Bahamian Race the day before, participated with the cruisers. Waited for the boats in the dinghy at the downwind mark. After the boats passed the mark, left the course to stroll the beach at Sandy Cay with Chuck and Sandra (ELIORA). Later in the afternoon, had New Years Day Dinner on DISCOVERY with Jan & Karen (BELLA) and Chuck & Sandra followed by Mexican Dominoes.
Below are two pictures taken during the Annual Staniel Cay Cruisers Regatta. TIDA WAVE is in the photo on the right.
The following pictures were taken on New Years Day when exploring the beaches on the east side of Big Majors and the north end of Staniel Cay. The first four taken at Shipwreck Beach (my name). Don't know the story about this wreck other than the sailboat dragged at anchor onto the rocks. You see a picture of the hull, the boat's Dell computer, the mast and a sink. The last two pictures were taken on the cliffs at the north end of Staniel Cay.
The following day snorkeled the Thunderball Grotto with Linda, Tim and their guests (MATSU) and Jan & Karen (BELLA). This grotto (cave) was used to film a scene in the James Bond movie, "Thunderball". A great place to snorkel. The cave has a large opening (skylight) at the top of the dome so there is plenty of light to see the hundreds or thousands of fish (it is like swimming in a large aquarium). At low tide, you can rest on a couple of rock shelves. The water temperature was cool---appreciated those wetsuits.
Sailing and Fishing:
Traveled 200 nautical miles this month---sailed half the time. When we left Big Majors for Black Point---sailed from anchor to anchor never starting the engine at all. Motorsailed mostof the leg from Black Point to Georgetown (54 nm)---did manage to sail for 2 hours on a close reach. Very light winds for the leg from Georgetown to Thompson Bay when we sailed for only 1 hour. Finally, fantastic winds for a fast journey from Thompson Bay to Flamingo Cay (57 nm in 8.5 hours with a reefed mainsail and the small jenny). The last two legs for the month (Flamingo to Raccoon and Raccoon to Hog) were strictly motoring in wind around 5-8 knots.
Now for the fishing---ran out two lines around 7:30 AM shortly after passing through Dotham Cut near Black Point. Caught one mahi mahi at 7:50 AM and a second mahi mahi at 8:10 AM!!! The mahi mahi are so colorful when they are in the water---the color quickly fades once they are out of the water. Did not fish when we were on the Great Bahama Banks (Georgetown to Thompson Bay and Thompson Bay to the Jumento) because about all you catch is barracuda.
Carl went hunting for lobster and small fish with a pole spear twice. The first hunt at Raccoon Cay where he saw a glass-eye snapper, fired the pole spear which bounced off the fish. He was eventually chased out of the water by a big shark (not a nurse shark but something much larger, faster and more ominous). The second time was at Hog Cay with Chris and Karen (SYNERGY). Spotted a lobster but did have enough air to stay down to shoot it. Also saw a huge Permit fish but did not shoot it. So far, nothing has been killed by Carl but he has learned a lot. Right now he is trying to get the right amount of weight on the weight belt so that he doesn't have to fight to stay down or fight to get back up. Also learning how to spot the lobster. I am confident that in the near future, he will get his first kill!
Have been eating lobster thanks to the generosity of other cruisers---Bill on Veranda gave us two lobster up at Raccoon Cay and Chris on SYNERGY gave us three small lobster at Hog Cay. Also purchased 4 lobster from a commercial fisherman we shared an anchorage with in Flamingo Cay.
Speaking of commercial fisherman, heard a heated argument over the VHF radio between SOUTHERN COMFORT, a fishing boat from Ragged Island and a fishing boat from Long Island. The Captain of SOUTHERN COMFORT was shouting on the radio--we heard him request the help of the local police and we heard something about a gun. Understand that shots were fired. Don't know all the details.
The two mahi mahi fish Carl caught just past Dotham Cut. The next two pictures were taken the first time Carl went hunting for lobster. He was so excited about going that when he grabbed his fins he took one of his fins and one of mine! He also forgot his gloves and then when it was time to enter to water he dropped his pole spear in the water (it was sinking fast) so he had launched out of the boat into the water like a rocket! The last picture is Karen, Chris and Carl returning from a great hunt. That Permit fish Chris is holding was so big that when it was on Chris's spear....the fish dragged him around! The fish later fed 18 people at a beach dinner.
About Long Island and the Jumentos/Ragged Island Chain:
Long Island is 76 miles in length by 4 miles in width at the widest part. It stretches from the southern Exumas and Exuma Sound to the deep Crooked Island Passage. The western shore lies in the shallow waters of an arm of the Great Bahama Bank. Columbus landed to the island in 1492 (his third stop after San Salvador and Rum Cay) naming it Fernandina. His flagship, the SANTA MARIA, went aground on a reef off the northern tip of the island which is now called Cape Santa Maria. There are about 3,500 inhabitants on the islands--descendants from pirates, slaves, French missionaries and Greek sponge fisherman. At one time there were numerous estates on the island with extensive stone wall pastures (you can still see these ruins). Noticed a lot of sheep while driving around the island.
The Jumentos are a crescent shaped chain of islands 110 miles long that lie on the southeastern edge of the Great Bahamas Bank at the Crooked Island Passage. The entire island chain is often called the Ragged Island Range but most often referred to as the Jumentos with the Ragged Islands spoken of as a separate entity. The only settlement is Duncan Town on Ragged Island. The islands are free from commercial development and is a place to enjoy fishing, diving and beachcombing. When you "hunt for lobster and reef fish" you keep an eye out for shark especially in the late afternoon. Sharks come in to the shallows--they can be aggressive. During lobster season (August 1 to April 1) there are fishing boats from Long Island, Nassau, Spanish Wells, the Exumas and Ragged Island that share the islands with about 20-40 cruising boats. Cruisers headed to Cuba often wait in an anchorage south of Duncan Town for the right weather for the 60 mile trip to Cuba.
Second time to Black Point this season. Ordered bread from Lorraine's Mom (coconut, raisin and white). Had cracked conch at Lorraine's Cafe with Chris and Heather (LEGACY another Saga 43). Walked to the blow hole to search for sea glass. Carl helped Bob (CYGNUS) who was having problems with his refrigeration---we had the spare part Bob needed. A quiet night at anchor. Headed to Georgetown the following morning. ELIORA, who we have been traveling with all month, decided to continue traveling down the bank side of the Exumas before heading to Georgetown.
Georgetown---there are some changes in Elizabeth Harbor but yet it is still the same. (NOTE: The harbor where cruisers anchor is Elizabeth Harbor, the town is Georgetown. Like most cruisers, I refer to both of them as "Georgetown". Georgetown is a place where around 100-150 boats spend the entire cruising season. It is like a summer camp for adults. The total number of boats in Georgetown has been as high as 500 in past years. A day in Georgetown starts off with the Cruisers Net which includes: weather, business announcements, community announcements and boaters general. Everyday people gather on Volleyball Beach to play volleyball (there are two categories--regulation and fun), Mexican Dominoes, or Bridge. Then there is the scheduled morning events---yoga, water aerobics , watercolor painting or basket weaving. At night there are organized events such as Texas Hold 'em, Trivial Pursuit, Sand Dollar Beach Happy Hour or an ARG Meetings (Alcohol Research Group) on Monument Beach. Plus there are Regatta Events to plan and organize. It is a very busy place. The biggest change is the additon of mooring to the north of Chat n' Chill and a pump-out boat.
The first picture is me standing by the welcome sign next to Exuma Market in Georgetown. The second picture is the mileage sign on Volleyball Beach.
Two pictures of Carl--the first one relaxing on a rock at the beach; the second one is Carl hiking "off the beaten path". You know, there is still a lot of boy in that man. He had to jump/hop across that opening to get back on the marked trail.
Stayed in Georgetown for two weeks quickly falling into the Georgetown routine. Usually walked the beach in the morning looking for treasure and enjoying the sun and sea. Volleyball Beach in the afternoon---this year, both of us played fun Volleyball! Of course we had to run into town for laundry, fresh produce, purchase Wifi cards, buy Regatta tee shirts and other stuff. Rockin' Ron and Kool Karen held their first dance on the deck at Chat n' Chill on Monday, January 17. Great music to dance the night away.
Pictures from the first dance at Chat n' Chill. Kool Karen and Rockin' Ron are in the first picture. Second picture is a bunch of mostly retired cruisers dancing to "YMCA" by the Village People!
In addition to the planned events for everyone, have to find time to socialize with friends. Invited Kris and Craig over for dinner followed by a game of SEQUENCE (the girls won the first round; the guys won the second). The following night we had dinner on TILT this time the girls won both rounds! Cheryle and Skip on ELEANOR M invited us to a Hot Dog Roast on Honeymoon Beach along with about a dozen other cruisers. Skip and Cheryle provide the hot dogs while the guests bring a dish to share. Went to a Happy Hour with heavy appetizers plus CATCH PHRASE on ONE EYED PARROTS (Leigh and Ken) along with Kris & Craig on a windy night (also a full moon for a beautiful dinghy ride back to the boat). ELIORA caught up with us in Georgetown so we spent time with them (dinner and games).Sandra's sister, Ashley, arrived in Georgetown for a week long vacation. Dinner on LEGACY with Heather and Chris. Also dinner on SOUTHERN ESTATE (Aime & Nancy) along with Kris & Craig. Dinner followed by two rounds of SEQUENCE of which the guys won every single game!!!
Hot Dog Roast on Honeymoon Beach. On the left is a picture of the host and hostess Skip and Cheryle. The picture on the right is Skip and Carl chatting while the fire gets going.
Happy Hour on Sand Dollar Beach on one of those north wind days (you can tell it was cool/cold by the clothes).
Pictures taken during hikes in Georgetown. One day Sandra, Ashley (Sandra's sister) and I hiked the Tiki Trail. Picture on the left is a land crab skeleton we found. Picture on the right is Ashley and Sandra (carrying Freckles) on the trail.
One day Ashley, Sandra, Chuck, Carl and I walked the ocean beach. Stopped by the Blue Hole with a rickety bridge across one end of the hole. Because the bridge was there---Carl and Chuck had to cross it. When Carl stepped on the bridge to come back, the boards shifted. He no longer trusted the bridge to hold him so he crawled his way back. There is still a lot of boy in the man!
Stayed in Thompson Bay, Long Island for 5 days. Chuck and Sandra rented a car to drive Sandra's sister, Ashley, to the airport at Stella Maris. They decided to keep it an extra day so we did some land cruising. The afternoon that we arrived in Thompson Bay , Ashley was still visiting Chuck and Sandra so the five of us rode in the car to a beautiful ocean-side beach. Looked for a restaurant for dinner before Ashley returned to New Jersey but could not find one that was serving that night. So, pulled together a potluck dinner and played Mexican Train Dominoes. Chuck and Sandra picked us up around 9 AM (after dropping Ashley off at the airport). Drove to Dean's Blue Hole (world's deepest Blue Hole and 8th largest underwater cavern--divers have penetrated it to 220 feet and it has been sounded with lead lines at over 660 feet deep). From the Blue Hole drove south to the end of the island near Gordon. There is a beautiful beach at the west side of the island where the road ends. After a nice long walk on the beach we headed to Clarence Town for lunch at the Flying Fish Marina (cracked conch, fries and plantains plus a Kalik for the author of this log). Thursday night we had dinner at the Thompson Bay Club with cruisers on POCO LOCO, DESTINY, ELIORA, NEAMA, and LIVING ON. Trifina prepared an excellent dinner of cracked conch, cracked lobster, fried fish, chicken wings, spareribs, peas & rice, potato salad, plantains, and cole slaw. There was so much food and it tasted so good. Too bad this dinner wasn't available on Ashley's last night in the Bahamas.
On the left the warning sign regarding Dean's Blue Hole. On the right is a picture of the Blue Hole.
Photo on the top left was taken on the west coast beach at the southern tip of Long Island. I have named this beach--Fabric Beach because hundreds of articles of clothing washed on on the shore. Why I don't know??? Top right is the church in Dunmore. Bottom left is the church in Clarence Town. Bottom right is Trifina (Thompson Bay Club) and her god-child. Should have taken a picture of the food after Trifina set it down on the table.
Two nights at Flamingo Cay in the Jumentos. Anchored in a cove just south of the JOHN DAVIS wreck along with a commercial fishing boat from Long Island with Ian and Ruth aboard. ELIORA anchored on our port side but they were not as tucked up in the cove as we were. They rolled more during the night than we did which interrupted their sleep (wrap around waves plus ELIORA has more of a tendency to roll than DISCOVERY). The following morning Chuck apologized in advance for being crabby (which he wasn't). Took the dinghies the next cove south of us where we found the path that leads to the navigational light (out of order) at the top of the hill. Explored the cave--entered it once by land through the back wall where there is a large window to crawl through Entered it a second time by sea with the dinghy. Returned to the cove where we were anchored and found a path to the north beach (just another beautiful beach). Once again, ELIORA rolled during the night so they decided to return to Long Island. Sad to see them go--will meet up with Chuck and Sandra in Georgetown the first part of March.
The photos below were taken when anchored in Flamingo Cay. Top left is Carl climbing the light at the top of the hill (once again there is a lot of boy left in this man). Explored the cave from land and sea. Crawled through the back window to stand on the shore covered with conch shells (top right photo). Climbed back out the window....took the dinghy to the water side. Middle left photo shows the cave as we approached it from the water. Middle right photo shows the skylight at the top of the dome. Last photo (bottom left) is Chuck and Sandra entering the cave in their dinghy.
The trail from the cove where we anchored to the beach on the north side of Flamingo was well marked. Didn't find many treasures on the beach. I made a butterfly formation out of seashells. The second picture is a cactus that was in bloom. I don't remember seing cactus on any of the other islands in the Bahamas but then perhaps I just wasn't looking.
Two nights in Raccoon Cay. Original plan when departing Flamingo Cay was to stop in Buena Vista Cay but when we were close to Buena Vista it was too early to stop so continued on to Raccoon. Invited to a Happy Hour on the beach by a group of boats that refer to themselves as "The Fleet": FAR NIENTE, VERANDA, SAVAGE SON, MY DESTINY and SYNERGY. When attending beach parties in the Jumentos, you bring an appetizer to share, your own drinks and paper/plastic trash for burning in the firepit! The following day, we joined "The Fleet" on a hunt. The guys do the hunting while the women keep the dinghies close by (the women are called Dinghy Darlings but I prefer to be called a Dinghy Diva). That evening, invited for dinner by Greg and Judy (MY DESTINY) along with Chris & Karen (SYNERGY) for hog fish. Boy is hog fish ever good.
Next anchorage----Hog Cay. Motored from Raccoon to Hog Cay. The water was smooth as glass (you could see the starfish and reef fish as the boat motored by). Saw a huge shark swim by going the opposite direction and was greeted by a dolphin as we turned toward the anchorage south of Margaret Shoal. This is a neat place to stay. Lots of well marked hiking trails across the island. Several beaches to stroll for treasures. The cruisers set up a "Yacht Club" with a firepit, table top for food and benches. There is also a bocce ball court. The first night we went to the Yacht Club for a Happy Hour (another opportunity to burn the plastic/paper trash).Took the dinghy into Duncan Town (a long, long dinghy ride) to attend a benefit for the school. The benefit was a dinner---the menu offered choice of peas & rice or conch & rice; fried chicken or baked chicken or fried fish or spareribs; and a choice of two sides--cole slaw, potato salad or mac and cheese. By the time we arrived at the front of the line--no more choices just peas & rice, baked chicken, potato salad and cole slaw. The food was yummy and not having to choose made it easy. Carl went hunting with Karen and Chris one Sunday morning while I walked the beach for 3.5 hours in search of beach glass with Bonnie & Roger (KOKOMO), Conrad & Sally (ITS ABOUT TIME), and Jerry & Karen (PERSEPHONE).Chris had a successful hunt spearing several lobster and a huge Permit Fish (Carl didn't--see section on Sailing and Fishing). Invited to MON AMIE (Dave and Mary) for Happy Hour Sunday night. Monday, Chris organized a dinner to share the Permit fish and also to celebrate Bob's birthday (SAVAGE SON). And I thought Georgetown was busy!!!
The water is so clear in the Jumentos. The following two pictures were taken underway from Raccoon Cay to Hog Cay. Yes, that is a starfish in the photo on the right.
The next group of pictures were taken on our trip to Duncan Town. Maxine is a big help to the cruisers. She takes orders for provisions which she sends to her daughter in Nassau who then purchases the items and sends them to Duncan Town on the supply ship, CAPTAIN C. Maxine also has a barrel of gasoline--siphons the gas into a jerry can for you. The third photo shows the mangrove channel for shallow draft boats. As mentioned before, the dinghy ride from Hog Cay is a long way before you even reach that channel! The last two pictures were taken at the school benefit.
The trails in the Jumentos are well marked by cruisers who pick up items that collect on the ocean beaches. Shoes are the most popular markers (did not include any pictures of shoes). The top row show some different kind of markers (I added the "head" to the marker on the right).
The next three pictures were taken during hikes. Top left is Carl ahead of me on the Hilltop Trail. Top right a stone wall on one of the trails (don't know the name of that trail) built by Loyalists. The bottom left picture is just a few of many soaked, soggy bags of marijuana (I named this beach the MJ Beach).
There is a cool spot on Hog Cay that has been fixed up by cruisers and called the Yacht Club. Colorful floats welcome you as you enter the Yacht Club. With any gathering, burning paper/plastic trash is always a priority although if food is being prepared in or over the firepit then trash waits until the food it done!
A serving table---large blue barrels filled with sand provide the structure. The plastic grille top is held in place with wire tires. All this stuff is recycled from the beach. On the right is the bocce ball court.
Photos taken at Happy Hour (first night at Hog Cay). On the left is Karen (PERSEPHONE) and Bonnie (KOKOMO) singing while there is still light for Karen to read her sheet music. On the right is a group shot just before sunset.
The log isn't complete without a discussion of weather. This month we only had three cold fronts. Cold front number one was a little more exciting for us than previous fronts. The wind ahead of and behind the front was forecasted at 13-15 knots with gusts to 18 plus a 30% chance of squalls between 25-30 knots. Around 5:00 AM heard the wind pick up. Turned on the wind instrument and suddenly heard a loud noise like a helicopter landing on the bow of the boat. Glanced at the wind indicator as Carl threw his shorts on--it read 31 knots. The two of us flew up on deck. The small jenny started to unfurl and was flogging back and forth in the wind. It managed to get wrapped so we had to drop it to the deck. I wrestled the sail on deck trying to keep it down it while Carl got a dock line to tie it down. It was pouring rain so it was hard to see and with the wind it was hard to hear. Only one squall and only moderate wind followed it.
A small tear to repair when the small jenny started to unfurl.
Cold front number two arrived while we were in Thompson Bay. One oddity associated with this front......the wind picked up earlier than expected. The forecast was for the winds to be around 12 knots until the evening when the wind would increase to 20-25 knots ahead of the front which would pass around midnight. Under the assumption we'd have lighter winds in the late morning and early afternoon, took the dinghy into Salt Pond to the Long Island Breeze Resort to use the internet. Both of us had wet bums by the time we landed the dinghy on shore. Walked to the Resort and used the internet. By the time we returned to the dinghy, the waves were rolling in (swells). Carl got wet up to his waist trying to get the dinghy off shore into deeper water so I could start the engine (his wallet was soaking wet). The ride back to the boat was hairy at best.....up the wave then surf down rolling swells. Going into shore for internet was not such a good idea. Experienced 30 knot squalls, heavy rain and lightning around 8:30 PM as the winds shifted from the southwest to the west. The actual front passed through with a few more squalls at 11:50 PM.
The last front was also a little different. This time, the front was to pass when we were in Flamingo Cay---forecasted wind to be from the south at 5-8 knots going light and variable by afternoon and clock to the north by morning no more than 8 knots with no showers or squalls. So what could be the problem??? The cold front stalled north of us and did not arrive in the Jumentos for two more days. During those two days, the dynamics changed--this time there would be westerly component winds (most anchorages don't offer protection from westerlies). Specifically the wind was supposed to be light and variable in the morning, clock to the northwest as 10-12 knots in the afternoon/sunset and continue to clock to the north at 10 knots by the following morning. Well, it was light and variable in the morning but then the winds built rapidly from the west to 20 knots gusting 23. Took its sweet time moving to the northwest and did not go north until the following afternoon. As a result, huge waves rolled into the anchorage causing many of the boats to roll.
Other than the fronts, the weather has been nice. Yes, in Georgetown we had to dress warm when the winds were blowing from the north a couple times. Since arriving in the Jumentos it was been in the lower to mid 80's with mostly clear skies.
As mentioned in the Sailing and Fishing section of the log, the results of Carl's hunting trips has been "zip, zip, zero". While in Duncan Town, one of the commercial boats was unloading their catch (they use traps in deeper water) so Carl posed with two big lobsters which he selected from the pile below him! Some day soon the lobsters he holds up for photos will be ones he hunted himself.
February 03, 2011