This journal entry will take a little longer to load. Jane's here now and she has taken lots of pictures.
30-31 January 2008
I spent a few hours cleaning up Galena for Jane's arrival. The inside of the boat had gotten that 'guy-living-alone' look. You know: clothes thrown all over the place, dirty dishes in the sink, tools stacked up on the nav station, vee-berth hadn't been made in a week or so. I also had a lot of laundry to do. Once all the work was done, I got cleaned up, put on a clean shirt and waited for Jane to arrive. She said she could take a taxi in from the airport herself so I just waited on Galena. Her flight was delayed a bit and she arrived just after dark.
Once we got her luggage stowed aboard she told me that she had been thinking about a conch salad for the past few hours and asked if we could walk down to fisherman's market to get something to eat? Sure. So off we go. We find a stall that is still open and order conch salad for Jane and cracked conch for me. The conch salad is a spicy mix of vegetables and raw, diced conch. Jane loves the stuff; me, not so much. Cracked conch is a battered and deep fried version served with fries. Now who wouldn't love that?
Jane wanted to hang around Nassau for a day and do some shopping. Mostly grocery shopping since she wasn't all that thrilled with the selection of 'guy food' aboard Galena.
Jane spent the next morning putting things away and taking inventory of the stores aboard Galena. Then we went walking and shopping around town. We talked with the crew of the boat next to us in the marina, s/v Phoenix (Island Packet 40). They were heading down to George Town also. After a nice dinner aboard we played dominoes and called it a night.
01-02 February 2008
Shroud Cay, Exuma Islands, Bahamas
Trip: 50nm, Total: 1522nm, Engine: 1614hrs
We had light winds all day and had to motorsail all the way from Nassau. But it was still a nice, quiet sail across the Exuma Banks. The wind was 120° at 5-8 kts. Our heading was 150°. I tried to sail a few times but every time I did we slowed down and our ETA moved to well after dark. So I ended up just motorsailing.
This was the first time I'd sailed directly from Nassau to Shroud Cay. The rhomb line took me over the western edge of the Yellow Banks and I was surprised to see the number of coral heads that were here. I actually had to steer around a few of them. When I cross further east, I can usually sail right through and find no obstacles directly in my path.
Bill Sailing across the banks
Jane has always had dark skin compared to me. But as I've been cruising for a few months, and she's been stuck up north in the snow, I've outpaced her on the tan-o-meter.
Island Tan versus Winter White (the toes with the polish are Jane's)
As reported by s/v Jus' Dreaming The Exuma Park has placed new mooring balls at all the islands within it's boundaries. They charge $15 per day for a boat 40 feet or less.
Envelope for paying fees at the outlying areas.
But there is plenty of room to anchor around and between the moorings. So that's what we did. After all, for the cost of a single night's mooring we could have several beers when we get to some place where one can buy a beer. The mooring balls were lined up in the main anchorage area around N 24° 31.7'.
We arrived a little late in the afternoon and, after setting the hook just called it a day.
Jane in the morning
On 02 Feb we both woke up at about 0600hrs. We had gone to sleep at about 2000hrs and were well rested by dawn. Galena was right where we had left her, which was always a nice surprise.
Before breakfast we launched the dinghy and motored into one of the mangrove canals. We had sailed past Shroud Cay several times in the past few years. Jane had always sort of wanted to explore the mangroves. Once we actually stopped here. But then the dinghy motor wouldn't start. This year I had promised that we would spend as much time as she wanted on the island. So we did.
Shroud Cay and our dinghy route through the mangroves
One of the smaller mangrove canals that we dinghied down
As you can see from the satelite image above, there are several canals that cross the island. Galena was anchored on the bank (west) side. We went to the canal at N 24° 31.865 W 76° 47.705 and followed it for about half a mile. There it just petered out. But there were a couple of side canals that were only about six-feet wide and went for hundreds of feet. In them we saw a lot of small fish and conch. Quite a few places we had to drag the dinghy over really shallow spots.
Jane pulling me across the ankle deep shoals.
Just like in the African Queen, huh?
But this was at low tide. Note: if you ever explore Shroud Cay, do it at high tide. You'll walk less and ride more.
We returned to Galena to get something to eat. After breakfast we tried the entrance at N 24° 31.638 W 76° 47.637 and found it only went a couple of hundred feet before ending in a sand flat.
Then we went around the southwest end of the island and entered the canal at N 24° 31.369 W 76° 47.474. This one was shown on the map as going all the way across the island to the Exuma Sound side. We hit a few places where we had to get out and pull the dinghy over shallow spots. Most of these spots were only 30-feet wide. In a surprisingly shallow spot we saw a shark that was easily 5-feet long. Eventually we got through almost to the sound. Within a few hundred yards. There we found a large sand flat that is obviously underwater at high tide. So we left the dinghy there and walked over to the beach. Nice beach.
Jane at the Sound side entrance to the mangrove canals
Jane also found some time for sunbathing
Since it rarely rains here, the vegetation is scarce. All of God's creatures compete for resources. Here's a picture of a rare tropical flashlight which, though maimed by predators, struggles for existence by hiding in the sparse brush.
Injured flashlight struggling to stay alive on the beach
We returned to Galena at 1330hrs. So early that we decided to sail over to Hawksbill Cay rather than spend another night at Shroud Cay.
Hawksbill Cay, Exuma Islands, Bahamas
Trip 13nm Total 1526nm Engine 1614
We sailed off the hook and over to Hawksbill. It's only a few miles and we had a nice sail there. We sailed right to the hook, much to the entertainment of the several boats riding to the new mooring there. Again, we just anchored between the balls.
Jane and I dinghied to the beach to see if the guest books were still there. There was once a mailbox on a pole halfway up the hill just south of the main beach. In the mailbox, wrapped in zip-lock bags, were several notebooks filled with entries by visitors to the island. But it was gone. Part of the modernization that included the mooring balls, I guess.
Jane was back at the helm and enjoying it.
We talked with s/v Stella Polaris in the afternoon. They were at Warderick Wells and were staying for a couple more days. We'll catch up with them there and they can finally meet Jane.
Our rough plans call for stopping at Warderick, Staniel, a couple of beaches below Black Point, Farmer's Cay, and then George Town on Grand Exuma Island. Jane's flight out of George Town is on the 20th. We plan on getting there on the evening of the 16th. That should give here time to shop and explore before flying out.
03-04 February 2008
Warderick Wells, Exuma Islands, Bahamas
Nice sail over from Hawksbill. I had to harvest the head along the way. I'm getting almost 2-months between "pump-outs." Not bad. I really like this composting head.
Warderick Wells is the main office of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.
We were put on mooring ball #12 and had only a little trouble picking it up. I foolishly tried to stop at the mooring with the current behind me. Jane grabbed the mooring pendant and promptly lost her boat hook when Galena decided not to stop. I came about and Jane was able to get us secured. I had been towing the dinghy so I just hopped in and recovered the boat hook, which I was surprised to see was actually floating.
Once we got secured I motored toward the main office to see if anything was going on there. Being Sunday the office had closed an hour before we arrived but there were a lot of dinghies there and I was curious. Jane had decided to invite Joyce and Tom over for dinner so she started preparing while I went off to socialize.
Half of the mooring
ditch field at Warderick Wells Cay
Two boats back I see Tom in the cockpit of s/v Worthless Wench (Pacific Seacraft 40). I was invited aboard by Bill and Caroline. After a brief chat I went back to Galena and picked up Jane. We sat around chatting for a while and then went back to Galena.
On the way back to Galena I noticed the outboard motor was running rough. In fact is was running like it was not getting fuel. I have a bad habit of leaving the fuel vent open on the tank in the dinghy. That lets rain water into the tank which makes the engine sputter and die. So I figured that was the problem this time. But when I checked the fuel going to the engine I found just fuel... and air. Lots of air. I checked the fuel hose and at the fitting where it connects to the tank I found that the hose had split. So I cut it off and reattached it to the fitting just below the split. I think the sun had weakened it. I really shouldn't leave the fuel hose laying around in the sun all the time.
Split fuel line feeding the outboard
Tom and Joyce showed up and we had a great dinner, followed by a game of dominoes. Jane and Joyce got along fine and we had a nice evening.
Dominoes on Galena
The next day Jane and I went walking the trails of the park. The trails are marked by piles of rocks (cairns) and a few signs.
Some trail markers have signs, some are just a pile of rocks
Water is scarce here so the land is mostly desert-like.
We had walked these trails before and really just wanted to get to the top of Booboo Hill. There had been a very large pile of memorabilia there. I guess you might call it trash. But everyone was adding stuff to the pile and putting their names on it. We had done that in '05 and wondered if our piece of wood was still there. But, like the guest book at Hawksbill, the pile had been removed. There was a new sign saying "Driftwood only." Still a pile of trash but now it's more environmentally sound, I guess.
Walking across the island is thirsty business
While up there we walked around and enjoyed the views. Both on the Exuma Sound side (which we usually refer to as the 'ocean' side) and The Banks side.
The new sign up on BooBoo Hill
We went over to Stella Polaris for sundowners and stayed for dinner.
The view from BooBoo Hill, Warderick Wells Cay, both to the east, over Exuma Sound, and to the west, over The Banks
That night it rained. Just enough to wake me and have me run around closing all the hatches.
05 February 2008
Anchored west of Big Major (N 24° 10.95' W 076° 27.59')
Trip 23nm/ Total 1563nm Engine 1622hrs
We departed Warderick Wells at 0900hrs, just after the announcements by Judy, the Park Priestess and Holder of the Balls. We sailed the first 6nm and were going to tack our way down the island chain. But in that first few miles we were already well over a mile off the rhomb line and on the tack to the east we were making a negative VMG. I don't like that. Motorsailing we could almost hold our course. The waves were up to 4-ft. and the ride was very rough and wet.
As we turned the corner at Sandy Cay I was surprised to see about 35 boats in the anchorage. I think it was a combination of the weather forecast calling for 25kts of wind out of the east and the fact that the supply ship arrives today.
We found a spot in close to the beach and anchored. Stella Polaris came in a found a place in front of us.
We had dinner and started watching a DVD but both fell asleep before 1930hrs.
06-07 February 2008
At dawn we counted about 46 boats in this anchorage. This is one popular place.
Stella Polaris had a rough (rolly) night so they wanted to move over to Staniel Cay proper. Jane and I went along with them. Mostly to visit, partly because it would be a long, wet dinghy ride from Galena to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. This way we could ride in comfort on SP and then dinghy back downwind and dry.
Tom and Joyce took a while to find a good spot. But they ended up about 200 yds from the
barYacht Club. So we all dinghied in and walked the town and then had lunch and a few beers. Jane and I decided to move Galena closer in, too. And it was getting late. So Tom said he and Joyce would just go with us and give us a hand. We all dinghied out to Galena and then motored around looking for a spot. Where Stella Polaris was was too shallow for my tastes. So I went out to a spot a few hundred yards further away. We dropped the hook and had a nice night.
We spent a quiet morning on Galena. Reading, writing, talking... all those things. Jane made Spam sandwiches and we generally had a very nice morning.
Our route from the anchorage west of Big Major to a spot closer in to Staniel Cay.
Stella Polaris called and, wanting to go grocery shopping, asked if we wanted to go along. We had to make a trash run so we, too, made a grocery run. Later we all ended up at the Yacht Club bar; funny how that works.
There we made a few new friends. I talked with Chris and Kim. They don't have a boat yet But Chris wants to run away and play sailor. They had just flown in to Staniel Cay for a few days of fun and sun. They had the good fortune to run into me and I gave them the standard pitch of, "Just get a boat and GO!"
Friendly neighborhood bartender at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club
We also met Martin and Beverly of s/v Avalon. They live in Stevensville, MD. That's just a couple of miles from our marina. And they know my good buddy Billy Psimas! And they regularly participate in the Run What Ya Brung Regatta. That's probably why they looked so familiar. What a small world. We talked bad about other mutual friends and drank a toast to all those poor souls stuck back there in the snow.
Chris and Kim listen as I explain the cruising lifestyle
During the night the wind finally died. Galena was anchored out where the current was controlling her swing rather than the wind. So when the wind died it had very little effect on our motion. But Stella Polaris was in a spot where the wind dominated; till it quit. Then the current swung Stella Polaris far too close to a neighboring boat. In the dark of night Tom had to move.
Martin and Bev of s/v Avalon
09-12 February 2008
Just South of Black Point, Great Guana Cay, Bahamas (N 24° 04.8' W 076° 23.1')
Trip: 14nm Total: 1581nm Engine: 1625hrs
The GPS said we had traveled 14nm. But the direct path was only 9nm. So what should I say? I went 9 miles, or I went 14 miles? I've been reporting the actual miles under the keel. Maybe some day when I have very little to do I'll work out the other number and see if it's all that different. By the water-under-the-keel counter we've put about 10,000 miles on Galena since we bought her in '03. If I just counted the distance between places that would mean that getting there is not the worthier part.
We departed Staniel Cay at about 0830hrs. We sailed out of the shoals and out onto The Banks. There we had to turn southeast and right into the wind, which was light but right on the nose. We tried sailing for a while and then gave up. There was a considerable chop running but there was not enough wind to drive through it.
So we sailed and motored from Staniel Cay to here; just a mile south of the Black Point settlement. This is a small out of the way anchorage along Great Guana Cay. We turned the corner at Black Point and were happy to see that no one else was here.
Our route into the anchorage south of Black Point
The beach is beautiful. With the one exception: there are the remnants of a stalled resort construction near the beach.
But one of the resort villas looks completed and someone is living there. He might be some sort of caretaker for the site. I see him driving around in a little golf cart a few times a day. Also, just up the beach there's a home that's in the shape of a castle. Very cool looking house. They even have a wind generator mounted on a tower.
Jane inspects the stalled construction on the beach
The resort villa that is occupied has a motorized generator that I hear running at night.
"One man's castle..."
As we approached the beach the bottom came up fast. About 200 yds out we were in 7.2 feet of water. Jane turned Galena south along the beach while I dropped the CQR and Galena drifted back on 100 feet of chain. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, Galena was lying still on her anchor, the beach was white, there was not a sound except for the water rushing up on the beach. What a beautiful place.
I dove on the anchor just to be sure it was set well.
Jane and I dinghied in to the shore. We swam and walked around and looked for shells. After an hour or so we went back to Galena to eat and take a nap. Then we went back in to the beach and went for a walk to the far (east) side of the island. We found a path the lead to a small beach on the Sound side.
Coming up from the deep.
(No, it's not a swimming pool. That's what the water on the banks looks like.)
But the beaches on the Sound side are all covered with trash that had washed up to the high-water line. If you ever wondered why the rules say not to throw any plastic overboard, all you have to do is walk down any beach on the west side of any of these islands.
Jane on the path to the little beach on the far side of the island
In spite of that mess, Jane found a bunch of sea shells that we had to have. There was also a pretty neat rock formation there.
Every type of plastic bottle and rope covers the beach on the Sound side of the islands
After walking around for a while we went back to Galena for a nice, quiet evening. The wind stayed calm, the water was glassy smooth, the stars were magnificent. What a night.
A cool rock formation on the Sound side
On the 10th we got up at about 0700 to catch the morning weather reports. Strong cold front coming through tonight. We expect high winds with gusts near gale force for the next two days. Not good news but we should be OK right where we are.
Galena at the anchorage south of Black Point
We dinghied in to the beach to give Jane a snorkeling lesson. She can't swim and is very uncomfortable with her face in the water. So snorkeling has always been something she's not enjoyed much. She's tried a few times and each time walks away unsure if she wants to try again. But today we had a good time. She was much more relaxed and didn't panic too much.
About 0900 a boat came into the anchorage. Joel and Kalin were heading north, back to New Brunswick, Canada. They had been heading south to George Town but instead spent a month at Farmer's Cay. Now it's time for them to head home. They had been here before and were going ashore to reacquaint themselves with old friends from the settlement.
After changing clothes Jane and I hiked over to a beach on the other (Exuma Sound) side and a bit north of here (N 24° 05.25' W 076° 23.15'). Again, many shells and piles of plastic trash.
By noon there were 7 boats here. A flock of Canadian boats had come in. They travel in flocks for protection, I think. Later, Stella Polaris sailed in and found a spot over by the Castle.
In the afternoon we met Tom and Joyce on the beach and caught up.
Joyce and Tom and Bill chatting on the beach
Jane wandered the beach looking for treasures
They said while at Staniel Cay they had to move again. This time they went between the Majors at the south end of the slot. The next day they moved to the same place we had been. They said that on the 10th, they watched as three boats went aground. One on the rocks right in front of Staniel Cay Marina. And two on the banks near where they were anchored.
One of the treasures Jane found was a stranded jellyfish
About 1500hrs the wind began to veer to the northeast and started to pick up a bit; maybe to 10 kts. Jane and I went back to Galena and started putting things away. I took down the sun shade, secured the Aries wind vane and put away the cockpit table. I folded down the solar panels and put a kellet on the dinghy painter. Jane put things away that were scattered all over the cockpit and deck. By the time we got finished the wind was up to 15kts steady. We went below to have dinner.
I had the CQR anchor out with over 100-ft of 3/8" chain. I had dove on the anchor and it was well set. The sand here is very soft and fluffy. So I was just a little concerned... but not very.
We watched as Galena was pushed further and further southwest. The loop of chain rode was finally pulled tight about 2100hrs. Then we watched and waited. By 2200 we were about 60-feet further southwest than we had been. Again, for first-time readers. After anchoring I make a guess at the anchor position and mark that spot on the GPS. Then I tell the GPS to 'go to that spot.' That way it constantly shows 'distance and direction to destination' as an indication of where Galena is relative to her anchor. Or more accurately, her position relative to where I said the anchor was. If we drag downwind, that 'distance to anchor' number goes up. We were showing 65-ft at sundown. That meant the anchor was off to the right and there was a big loop in the chain. When the chain went straight, the GPS indicated 125-ft to the anchor (100' of chain plus the distance from the bow to the GPS antenna). At 2200hrs the number started climbing. Just one or two feet ever few minutes. But after a couple of hours we had dragged a couple of boat lengths. Even though there was nothing to hit for about 150 miles I didn't want to get any further from the wind and wave protection of the island. For while it was blowing over 20-kts we had almost flat water all around us.
I fired up the engine and motored forward to place the Bruce anchor even with and just to the left (north) of the CQR. The Bruce is mounted on the port side of the bow with 50-ft of 5/16" chain and a lot of 5/8" nylon rode. I dropped the Bruce and slowly paid out the rode trying to keep Galena's bow to windward. We were in about 9 feet of water and at about 25-feet of chain rode the Bruce set. I let out another 75-feet of rode and tide it off. I put a snubber from the port haws pipe to the rode to keep it from rubbing on the bobstay. I slid a bit of fire hose over the rode where it passed over the bow roller for chafe protection. Jane and I anxiously watched the GPS. Galena stayed stationary, hanging from the Bruce. I left the CQR in place as a backup. It would at least slow our drift down wind if something happened to the Bruce. After a couple hours we went to sleep; waking up ever two hours to check our position.
The Garmin GPS showing the wind shift followed by Galena's position as she took up the slack and then started dragging. Also showing the run up to the white pointer were we placed the Bruce and then Galena's position as she settled back on that rode.
By dawn on the 11th we hadn't moved. The Bruce was holding. The wind was blowing at 20-kts steady and gusting over 25 kts. That's on deck with my hand-held anemometer. The actual wind speed (as measured at the masthead) is usually about 30 percent higher.
We spent the day watching DVD's, reading and doing odd chores. Only periodically did I go on deck to check the anchor rodes for chafe. All the while watching the GPS to see that Galena was staying put. All day long the wind blew at 20-kts or greater. Tomorrow's forecast calls for more of the same.
On the morning of the 12th all the Canadian boats left and headed back north to Black Point. The wind was forecast to clock to the SSE and stay in the 15-20 kt range. This anchorage doesn't provide much protection from waves once the wind goes south of SE. But Stella Polaris and Galena stayed none the less. And we were hammered by waves all day and all night of the 12th. Jane and Joyce went in to the beach to look for shells while Tom and I stayed with the boats. Stella Polaris was rolling violently and Galena was galloping like crazy.
It was so rough that I had to sleep with the lee-cloth up just to stay in the bunk. Finally at about 0300 on the morning of the 13th the wind died enough and the waves abated enough for us to get some sleep.
Jane and I decided to move south to Galliot Cut as a staging stop for a run to George Town, Exuma, on the 14th. Tom and Joyce decided to spend one more night where they were.
13 February 2008
We were anchor-up by about 0900. I had both bow anchors down so hoisting them was not easy. They had become just a little twisted. But I used the windlass to haul Galena forward while I took in the rope rode of the Bruce by hand. The Bruce was very well set. When Galena was directly over it I snubbed off the chain and let Galena's bouncing bow break it free. It took several minutes before the Bruce let go of the bottom and in a cloud of sand popped free. The same effort was required for the CQR.
Big Galliot Cay, Exuma, Bahamas (N 23° 55.65' W 076° 17.44')
We motored into a 3-ft chop all the way to Galliot Cay. The wind and waves were right on the nose. But the forecast was still calling for the winds to clock through south and come all the way around to northeast during the day on the 14th.
When I made the turn toward the east I noticed there was no one at the anchorage I had chosen. On one hand, that's nice. I can anchor anywhere I want and no one will be in my way. On the other hand, did everyone else know something I didn't? Once in close to the anchorage I was pleased to find there was little current and the seas were relatively calm. The wind continued to blow from the SE. Once anchored we dinghied over to a small beach on Big Galliot Cay and bathed and looked for shells.
Late in the day three more boats joined us at the anchorage. We all were counting on the wind clocking around from SE to NE. One of the guys said he was leaving at first light to beat the high winds forecast for late in the day. He was afraid to sail in 15-kts! We would be sailing SE with a NE wind. Sounds good to me.
Just before dark a fourth joined us in the anchorage. Again, while it's nice to have the place all to myself, it's also nice to have my decision to stage here for tomorrow's run affirmed by other boat captains.
14-20 February 2008
George Town, Grand Exuma Island, Bahamas (N 23° 31.17' W 075° 45.61')
Trip: 36 nm, Total: 1648 nm, Engine: 1634 hrs
We're here. This is the official destination for this year's trip south. A few weeks here and I head home.
Jane is really enjoying the trip and doesn't want to go home. So far we've only had a couple of bad weather days: more wind/waves than comfortable. While we've done more motoring than sailing the past few days, that's to be expected when heading southeast in an area when the winds are primarily from the southeast. That makes the trip back much more pleasant, though.
First stop for us in George Town is the Chat 'n Chill on Volleyball Beach. The place is owned by KB and is the unofficial home base of cruisers who 'do the Exumas' for the winter.
The Chat 'n Chill beach bar on Volleyball Beach, George Town
The Chat 'n Chill is a crowded little beach bar with Arlene the bartender keeping everything and everyone in order.
Of course it's called 'Volleyball Beach' because there's volleyball there. They have several courts available. There's the beach volleyball court, shown below, and a regulation volleyball court a little further back. Beach volleyball is for everyone. Regulation volleyball is for those who require the real, competitive, follow-the-rules kind of game.
Arlene the bartender
Most people just dinghy in to the beach from their boats. You can usually find about 100 or so boats anchored directly in front of Volleyball Breach.
Beach Volleyball on Volleyball Beach at the Chat 'n Chill
But some people have to make a big entrance.
Dinghies on the beach at Volleyball Beach
Most of us come for the drinks and the fun. The back deck is the place to be if the sun isn't too hot. Here you meet old friends and make new ones. On the beach you can find people playing dominoes, bridge, doing basket weaving, playing music, and just about anything else to pass the time.
Plane arriving at Volleyball Beach to have a drink at the Chat 'n Chill
I spent a good deal of my time partying with Billy and Sarah (s/v Moonlight Serenade) and BJ and Brian (m/v Executive Suite).
Billy, me, Sarah, BJ and Brian on the deck at Chat 'n Chill
But Jane comes for the conch salad. She loves the stuff. Has to have a least a bowl a day. What is conch salad, you ask? Well, you start with a conch. First you have to get it out of its shell. The locals make it look easy, but I've done it and it's not.
Then you have to dice it up and add all the 'salad' stuff.
Johnny removing the conch from the conch shell
Then you can enjoy a big bowl full of conch salad.
Johnny making the fixin's for the conch salad
Jane enjoying her favorite Bahama treat: Conch Salad
But at the end of the day, most of us just like to sit on the beach, drink a cold beer, and enjoy the sunsets.
Joyce (s/v Stella Polaris) relaxing on Volleyball Beach
Sunsets and rum -- life is good, huh, Joyce?