15 - 20 March 2008
George Town, Grand Exuma, Bahama Islands
This weekend George Town hosted the annual Bahamian Music Festival. The festival is held in the park at Regatta Point, near Kidd Cove. I've been to this party before and it's quite a big deal. All of the big stars of the Bahamian Music scene come to town and perform. Also, the park is filled with stands selling food and beer. Once night falls, the place becomes packed with people jumping around and enjoying the music.
Since the real fun doesn't start until dark, I first stopped off at the Peace and Plenty Bar. Mostly because I realized I didn't have a picture of me at that bar. And as you will have noted I have pictures of me at most of the bars I liked to visit on this trip. Sort of a bar-by-bar account of a voyage south. The Peace and Plenty is a hotel, restaurant, bar just a short walk west of Kidd Cove and west of the straw market. They have a small indoor bar and a very nice outdoor bar overlooking the harbor. The anchorage is a bit shallow at low tide so there are not many boats anchored there. Also, the dinghy dock is in disrepair so most cruisers who anchor on this, the south side of the harbor, do so in Kidd Cove.
So here's a picture of me at the outside bar. The bartender is 'Doc' and he's been there for years.
Also, to date I hadn't taken many pictures of George Town itself.
So here's a few to show you some of the places I've talked about.
Me at the Peace and Plenty bar
The main dinghy dock in Lake Victoria behind the Exuma Market.
Gayla (s/v Vitamin Sea) painted the sign and Tom (s/v Stella Polaris) did the lettering.
For the Music Festival they erect about 50 vender stalls around the perimeter of the park and a sound system that rivals anything you might find in the States. Local bands an celebrities perform well into the night. The stalls around the grounds are run by island restaurants and organizations (churches, scouts, etc). They sell food and beer and booze. The local food is mostly variations on Barbeque ribs, chicken, rice, and mac & Cheese. Oh, and they sell a lot beer and booze.
The front of the Exuma Market (The better of the two grocery stores in town)
This festival is one of the premier events of the Bahamas and to say it's well attended would be an understatement. People come here from all over the Bahamas for this. And their most popular performers come to the island to perform. It costs about $20 per night and goes on all weekend. You can get a small discount if you buy tickets for all four nights at once. Personally, one or two nights is enough. The block is checked.
The music rocked! Did I mention the sound system. It was loud even across the bay at the Chat 'n Chill; and that's almost two miles away! Bahamian rock can't be listened to standing still. At least I can't The crowd is jumping and swaying with the music. The island beat makes everyone move. Even the staid old cruisers were jumping around. One of the acts was actually a bunch of cruisers who put together a band named, "White Folks on Boats." They were very good. All of them were professional or past professional musicians. The lead singer, Capt Cal, was obviously at home on stage. She sounded a bit like a cross between Wynonna Judd and Janis Joplin. She's also single-handing her sailboat, Serenity.
The crowd at the George Town Music Fest
"White Folks on Boats" Band
As usual, I drank way too much. About 0100 I decided to have dinner (Ribs and Rice). Nice to have so many choices of venders.
I bumped into most of my friends there; too many to name. Donna and Toby (s/v Cariba) were having a good time, but then they always have a good time. I first met them on my first trip down here in 04. They live near Annapolis but I've never bumped into them during the summer. Sarah and Bill (s/v Moonlight Serenade) were really enjoying the music and being crazy. Sarah and John grabbed a drum and joined in the impromptu parades that wind through the crowd all night. Ferdy and Jutta (s/v Pipe Dream) were dancing around like the wild people they are.
Sarah and John at the George Town Music Fest
I got home about 0230 but when I left the party, it was still rocking strong. I could hear the music all the way across the harbor. I was serenaded to sleep.
The 16th of March was a recovery day spent just sitting around and cleaning up the boat a bit. Now, when I say, cleaning up the boat, I don't mean anything too stressful, you understand. I might shake out the rugs and sweep the floor. I might even do the dishes and wipe down the counters. I may even push the pile of dirty clothes further back into the corner of the pilot berth. But I don't do anything that requires much effort. This is the islands, mon.
On Saturday, the 17th I had another quiet day aboard. The day was capped with sundowners on Stella Polaris with Moonlight Serenade. I was quietly and safely tucked into my bunk by 2030hrs. And slept well until dawn.
The wind picked up out of the NNE about 0530 on the 18th of March. s/v Voyager (Charlie and Terry) were now in front of me and they were on rope rode. So they moved toward me a lot sooner than I moved away from them. At 0530 their dinghy, tied to their stern, was under my bowsprit. That's how close we were. I fired up the engine and made a gentle reverse tug on the rode, which was in a big loop on the sea bed, to straighten it out a bit and move me away from them. That made me much more comfortable.
You have to watch that whole rope-versus-chain issue. In a crowded anchorage you're relying on everyone swinging to the wind the same way. But heavy chain and light winds mean that may not happen. Those using rope will spin around in a clocking wind and then move back, downwind, much sooner than a boat that has to drag a large loop of heavy chain across the seabed. That often causes some problems. Easily fixed, but you have to be attentive.
The wind shift put s/v Jule (a nice, older Island Packet) directly behind me and a bit closer than I liked. I dinghied over talked with the captain and crew (Chris and Cathy) and they said they were fine with the situation. Well, I was there first so I wasn't really suggesting that I move, but I could haul in some of the 100+ feet of chain I had out. I didn't really want to do that since Galena was riding in 16-ft of water (16 deep plus 5-ft up to the anchor roller on the bowsprit = 21 feet of 'depth.' at a minimum of 5-to-1 for heavy chain rode that makes about 100-feet of chain. So I was not anxious to pull in any of that chain.)
By late morning the wind was up to 18-kts on deck. I poured the fuel from the deck jugs into the starboard tank. I went up to the bar at St Francis Resort and played in a Texas Hold 'em tournament. It was the most fun I've had for $5 ever. I lasted a few hours and went out at about number 17 out of 40 players. Not bad! I was not 'in the money,' but I had a lot of fun. I should have been playing the whole time I was in George Town. Too late I learned that they play twice a week there. It's a great way to meet people and have some exciting entertainment. And it's a lot more work than it looks like on TV. The winner usually walked away with a hundred bucks or more. Everyone has a great time. And the St Francis marina sells beer and food to 50 people or more. It's a win-win.
By the time I got home the wind was up to 25-kts ENE. Fortunately for me, the dinghy ride from the resort to Galena was on a course of SSW so I didn't get wet on the way. My small dinghy with it's 5-hp motor can make the passengers very wet when you try to drive her into the wind and waves. With just me aboard I can either get her up on plane and have a wild, rough ride. Or I can sit in the stern and keep the bow up and minimize the water splashing up from the waves. But with two or more people aboard, everyone gets soaked.
If you're just starting cruising and you're considering buying a dinghy, do this: borrow friends dinks and take them for rides in really rough, windy (2-ft chop, 20-kts wind) weather with one, two and three people aboard. I mean look for the conditions you might find in a mile-wide harbor going against the wind. You will find a remarkable difference in 'passenger dryness' with different types of dinghies and different motors. Some people go the minimalist route and get a 2hp motor. But they take forever to cross a rough wide harbor. Some go for the bigger dink with a 15hp or bigger motor. But they go through a lot of fuel and the motor weighs a ton. I would probably recommend a 10hp motor and an 8ft dink. I think that's a good compromise all around and I'll move up to a bigger motor when the 5hp and 2hp motors I have die. But it's your boat. Choose wisely.
Sometime in the morning of the 18th of March I was called on the radio, along with 3 other boats, by Sea Dancer and asked to switch to another channel. I was curious. So I answered and switched. There we were all chewed-out by this guy on Sea Dancer for putting our names on the regatta mural in the wrong place. We had not 'stayed inside the lines' as it were. My lettering had spilled onto the actual painting and that "...showed disrespect for the artist." Now she would, "...have to repaint that part of the mural." We all apologized as sort of a knew-jerk reaction. And Sea Dancer 'accepted' our apologies. But he was still pissed off. A few seconds later I thought, "Who is this Sea Dancer and why are we apologizing to him?" Gayla on s/v Vitamin Sea painted the mural. I've talked with her. She didn't mind where I had put my name. She certainly wasn't going to repaint it. She was off-island at the time so I couldn't just call her and get her to tell Sea Dancer to lighten up. I was annoyed with Sea Dancer and also with myself for my automatic apology. This was just another case of the busy-body attitude of some cruisers. Sea Dancer saw that we had 'broken the rules' and he just had to call us on it. What we did had no direct effect on him, he just didn't like the fact that we had colored outside the lines. What an ass! And I felt foolish for saying, "I'm sorry" to him on the radio. He's an ass and I'm a pussy. The whole thing just wrecked my entire day.
The murals on Volleyball Beach at Chat 'n Chill
On the 19th the seas were running 12-feet on the sound. The wind was 20-kts gusting to 30 most of the day. by evening the winds were down to 15 out of the Southeast. Because of the sea-state I may wait until Friday to head north. I'm looking at going to Eleuthera on the way back instead of just running back up the Exuma chain. I can run across the Exuma Sound from Staniel Cay and head almost directly north for about 40-miles. With the wind from the east or ESE I should have a pretty good ride.
And a close-up of the offending lettering and the sign we ignored
I went to the library a exchanged some books. I had read everything on board and needed new stuff. I've taken to putting the boat name and date on the inside cover of the books I trade away. Sort of a 'I was here' thing. It would be interesting to run into those books again somewhere, sometime.
On the 20th I loaded some software on Joyce's (s/v Stella Polaris) computer. I went to St Francis for my third and final Texas Hold'em game. And, get this, I WON!! There were only 21 players since a lot of people had already headed back north. But I won $65. During the play I was up and down a lot. I felt like I was not getting any cards at all. Some one next to me said the most important virtue in this game is patience. But, late in the night I realized that all the other tables had been consolidated to mine; I was sitting at the 'final table.' But I only had 3 chips left. I figured I would be gone soon. But I doubled up a few times, and the big stacks were taking out other players all around me. Suddenly there were just four of us playing. I thought, "outlast just one more person and I'm in the money." And that would be so cool! Then it was just Linda, some new guy, and me. Linda went bust. New Guy and I had about the same chip-count. It went back and forth. The dealer was dealing so fast that I made a couple of foolish mistakes. Things like folding when I had nothing but was the big blind. But New Guy bet big when I had a pair of 2's. The flop gave me a set of three 2's. New Guy went 'all in' and I called with a few chips left over. I beat his pocket 8's.
I put the dinghy on deck and took off the sail covers. Everything is ready for a dawn departure tomorrow morning. The wind was calm but was supposed to build out of the SE tomorrow. The sea state in the Sound was still an impressive 6-8 feet but it was a long-period swell.
21 March 2008
White Point, Great Guana Cay, Bahama Islands
Trip: 47nm Total: 1802nm Eng: 1659hrs
I motored all the way here from George Town. Absolutely no wind, the seas were fairly flat with a long-period 5-ft swell from the NE. It was rough getting out of Conch Cut at George Town. The big swells were hitting the reef and causing significant and confused seas for the last mile or so toward the cut. But once I was actually in the cut, the seas were no problem. The air was hot and hazy all day. I rigged my sun shade and read a book all day.
Getting into this anchorage was a bit nerve-wracking. The water is 6' deep for about half a mile. And I still stopped a good quarter mile from shore. And the protection is not all that great from winds out of the SSE.
I had a calm, quiet night.
Galena anchored at White Point. Hot hazy day with no wind
22 - 28 March 2008
Staniel Cay, Bahama Islands.
Trip: 13nm Total: 1815nm Eng: 1659hrs
The wind picked up a bit along the way. The last hour or so was very rolly with winds SE at 15-kts. I ran wing-and-wing on starboard tack with the stay sail boomed out. I was holding 4+ knots all the way. But near the end of the trip I let the main sail get back winded. I couldn't get the preventer loosened and Galena was essentially hove to. Finally I dropped the staysail and that let Galena make some way. And that allowed the rudder to turn her downwind and the sail filled as the wind came back around to the stern. Once I turned northeast around Harvey Cay the water was protected and calm. Compared to just South of Harvey Cay where the seas were 4' and Galena was rolling 15-degrees each side of plumb.
I anchored in my favorite spot and quickly went over to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
There I had a beer with Dave and Christina (s/v Shamin) who I knew from George Town. And spent some time with Wireless Steve and his wife,
Nichol, and there two kids, JoJo and Evan. They invited me to go with them to Sampson Cay for some kind of an event involving the kids so I
went along. At the bar at Sampson Cay I met Mark and Lori (m/v CanFlor Lady). And engaging couple that I would meet again at Warderick Wells
a day or so later.
Later in the day I went to Steve's house on Over Yonder Cay. I spent the night there since we had put away the better part of a case of beer. On the 23rd we went back to Sampson Cay for an Easter Egg hunt and then over to Warderick Wells for an Easter pot luck lunch. Mark and Lori were there. They are both such a joy to talk to and spend time with. They invited me over to their boat but Steve and Rob and everyone else, after a long, hot, sunny day were too tired and we just went back home. Steve dropped me off at Galena and after cleaning up a bit I headed over to
Staniel Cay Yacht Club for a beer. There I once again connected with Sarah and Bill (Moonlight), Tom and Joyce (Stella) Bill and Carolyn (s/v Worthless Wench) and Dave and Christina (Shamin), and Dave and Heather (s/v The Answer My Friend). So at the bar we had: Bill, Bill, Bill, Dave, Dave. A full house, if you will, of captains.
The 24th was squally with north winds around 20-kts. A case of the Bahamian rule: "Nobody Moves; Nobody Gets Hurt."
On the 25th I invited myself over to Moonlight Serenade for a guitar lesson. Bill plays a mean guitar. In fact he said he hitchhiked across the country and panhandled by playing guitar on the street corners. Sarah plays guitar, too, and bluegrass banjo! So we jammed for a bit and I went home with a little better understanding of how to play.
At about noon, Stella Polaris moved over here to this anchorage and, while Joyce, Sarah, and Bill were on the beach feeding the pigs, I stopped over to chat with Tom. I said I wanted to leave on Friday and head over to Eleuthera. Stella Polaris still wanted to go to Warderick wells and Moonlight Serenade wanted to go Highborne Cay. I also mentioned going from Spanish Wells to the Abaco's overnight, Joyce balked and said she would rather not sail at night. She gave me the now well-used "we're ten years older than you" reasoning. Tom and Joyce argued about eating dinner at Staniel Cay Yacht Club and I left.
On the afternoon high tide of the 27th I moved from the anchorage at Big Major to the sand bar in front of the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. From there I could just move forward into the channel and out the cut at low tide (early in the morning) without having to worry about crossing the shallow water between Big Major and Staniel Cay. I went to the yacht club and drank till midnight with my new buddy Rob. He poured me into my dinghy and eventually I found Galena. I set the alarm for 0530 and hopped I would be sober enough to sail her out of the cut.
28 March - 02 April 2008
Rock Sound, Eleuthera, Bahama Islands (N 24° 52.16' W 076° 009.89')
Trip: 57nm Total: 1875nm Engine: 1670hrs.
I actually departed Staniel Cay at 0630; first light. I was following my GPS route and didn't do too badly. The current coming in the cut set me to port a bit more than I had expected and at one point I found myself heading for a rock, but I corrected and got out onto the Exuma Sound without trouble.
I couldn't just sail. My sailing speed was just 2.5 kts. So I had to motor sail. Once again I realized that I should have made a night crossing. As it was I had to motor sail because I wanted to arrive before dark. If I had left at dusk, I would have had all night and could have enjoyed the 2.5-kt sail across and would have had plenty of time to make it at that speed.
Chart showing Galena's route from Staniel Cay, Exumas, to Rock Sound, Eleuthera
The bottom came up and I was soon back on the shallow banks that make up the western side of Eleuthera. The water depth went down to (up to?) about 7-ft at one point but mostly it was about 15 ft. until I turned north into
Rock Sound. There the depth was a steady 8-ft. I was about to anchor when a fellow cruiser shouted that I was too close to the commercial dock. The island frieghters come in here and will not take kindly to sailboats crowding their turning basin. So I moved further north and found a nice spot near the northern dinghy dock.
Once we were all (Moonlight, Stella, and Galena) settled in, we met aboard Moonlight for drinks and movies. On the way, my outboard engine was acting up. It would start but wouldn't idle or run under load. Obviously a fuel problem. Tom didn't join us so I was Joyce's taxi for the evening.
The next day I took the carb apart and found some crud clogging the main jet. I cleaned it and the float bowl and everything ran fine.
I explored the town a bit. Found the grocery store, the hardware store and the liqueur store (all right next to each other. The grocery store is big, bigger and better than George Town. There was a blue hole swimming hole near the center of town. The people were friendly and the town looked a lot more prosperous than anything in the Exumas.
Sarah and Bill organized a 'Cruiser's Sundowner' at a disused tiki hut at the dinghy dock. Just about all the cruiser showed up. About 25 boats were represented there and we had a great time. Much more friendly than the George Town crowd. Although, most of these people were actually at GT. Here there was none of that, "Well, we've been here 15 years in a row. How many times have you been here?" attitude. Just a bunch of people having a good time.
After the sundowners, Tom and Joyce came over to Galena and we sat around listening to music till it got too cold outside (75°) and then we went below to play dominoes till about 2200hrs.
Long hazy shot of the north dinghy dock, Rock Sound, and the tiki hut of the defunct Four Points Restaurant
I gave Joyce a bunch of MP3's and a little lesson on managing computer files. Tom used my pop-rivet tool to fix some oars. The weather was cloudy and raining all day with wind SE at 10 kts. But we were expecting 30-kts tonight so I let out more chain rode.
On the 31st Moonlight, Stella, and Galena rented a car and explored the island. The five of us crammed into a fairly small car and drove up to Harbor Island. That's the high-priced district of Eleuthera. I was told by Mark and Lori that the best
Gumbay Smash was served at the Rock House on Harbor Island. So that's where we went. Tasked like a standard Gumbay Smash to me. Just more expensive ($12). So I tried a Mud Slide ($15) and it was good, but not as good as the 3 beers I could have had for that price.
Along the way north we stopped at Tippy's and had lunch.
Tippy's is a bit out of the way, being on the 'north' side of the island. But it was worth the trip.
The gang having drinks at the Rock House, Harbor Island, Eleuthera (Joyce and Tom, Bill and Sarah)
Tippy's bar and grill on the 'north' shore of Eleuthera
Also along the way we passed over the narrowest point in the island. Actually, since the piece of land was washed away, Eleuthera is technically two separate islands connected by this bridge.
Me, Tom (s/v Stella Polaris), and Bill (s/v Moonlight Serenade) party at Tippy's while the girls walked the beach
The bridge was hit by big waves during a hurricane and shifted about six feet to the West. You can seen in the photo below that the water pipe used to lie on the hooks along the outside of the bridge wall.
The narrow piece of land know as the Glass Window.
The ocean is on the left (east) and the banks on the right (west)
After the expensive drinks at the Rock House (beautiful place, by the way) we went to Valentine's for beer. Another expansive and beautiful bar at the marina.
The bridge was moved about 6-ft to the west by waves in a storm
Once we were back at Rock Sound we stopped by Sammy's for one last beer. Then back to the boats.
Me at Valentines Bar at the marina on Harbor Island, Eleuthera
On the 1st of April I went over to Moonlight to work with Bill on his Airmail program. He had a newer version than I so he let me borrow his disk. We downloaded grib files and weather reports looking for a good window to go north. Thursday or Friday looked good.
Sarah and Joyce at Sammy's bar.
Tom and Joyce arrived. While talking about energy usage Tom and I got into an argument about watts. Tom said that watts and amps are the same thing. I said they were not. That escalated into a shouting match and Tom stomped out all pissed off and went home. In retrospect I should have let it go.
About 1700 someone came on the radio and said, "Party?" All the cruisers again met at the tiki bar and partied till dark. I met Susan and Walter King (m/v Kingdom) and they invited me over for a drink.
Susan and Walt on m/v Kingdom in Rock Sound, Eleuthera
It turned into drinks and dinner as Susan made a fabulous meal. Topped off with ice cream! Got to love power boats! Then a couple of serious games of dominoes. Susan taught me 'the real, the only way' to play dominoes. And I have to admit, I like her game best of all the games I've learned. Home by about 0130hrs.
On the 2nd I had a quiet day aboard getting Galena ready for another hop to the north. Only left the boat for a quick trash run.
The next few days were a lot of hops north ending up in Little Harbor, Abaco. To put the moves in perspective, here's a chart showing my voyage legs with the Florida coast visible for scale.
Movement from Exumas, through Eleuthera, to the Abacos
03 April 2008
North of Alabaster Bay, Eleuthera, Bahama Islands (N 25° 17.15' W 076° 20.37')
Trip: 38nm Total: 1917nm Engine: 1671hrs
I was up at 0515hrs. I loaded the dink on deck and took off the sail covers. By 0600 I had coffee in the thermos and was ready to go. I had the hook up by 0645hrs and was the first of about 8 boats to leave the harbor heading north. Half of the boats went to Alabaster Bay and half here, just around the corner from Pelican Cay. Along with Galena are Moonlight Serenade, Stella Polaris, Worthless Wench, and Star Shot (Penny and George). I gave Star Shot a ride to the beach as we all went beach combing. George didn't want to take the trouble to launch his dinghy and I already had so it was easy for me to just give them a ride. They invited me aboard for drinks and we chatted for a bit. Lovely folks. Like most of the people I've met on these trips they have all the same fears, expectations, and generally the same experiences that I have. Since we all have sailing and exploring in common, we always have something to talk about.
We all then went over to Stella Polaris for more drinks. Again, we had three Bills on deck (Moonlight, Worthless, and Galena). But the Bill that shined that night was Worthless! He brought his guitar along and played for us. That guy could play like no one I've ever seen before! And sing? Wonderful voice. And he know so many songs that we all loved. What a concert. It ended too soon and we all went home.
04 - 05 April 2008
North of Current Cut, Eleuthera, Bahama Islands (N 25° 24.6' W 076° 47.5')
Trip: 28nm Total: 1945nm Engine: 1675hrs.
I was up at 0600 this morning and underway from Alabaster Bay by 0700. Sailed off the hook and worked hard at getting Galena to sail all the way. But the wind was light and directly astern. So after two hours of working the sails, I fired up the engine and motor sailed. Again a case of having to be somewhere at a certain time. Current Cut is our destination. It's not called that for no reason. There is said to be current through there at up to 10 kts. So I had to get there not later than slack low tide. The tide rushes north during the ebb there and we hit low slack at about 1300hrs. If I didn't make it there by then I'd have to wait until the next day to try to get through. (daylight plus tide restraints)
During this trip Tillie the Tiller AutoPilot finally broke to the point where she wouldn't work. The main actuator rod is housed in an aluminum tube about 1.25" diameter. That has a plastic extension at the end sticking out about 1/2 inch with threads. The motor housing, also about 1.25" in diameter screws over that plastic extension. Well, the threads stripped on the plastic. So the motor twists and get out of alignment with the actuator rod and jams. I want to send it in for repair when I get back, so I don't want to do anything Draconian like drill holes in it. So I went for the old standby: Duct Tape! I put the two pieces together and taped the hell out of the thing. If I can keep the motor housing from pulling away from the shoulder on the actuator rod housing, it will stay in line. We'll see.
Stella Polaris and Moonlight Serenade motored all the way and made the cut at least an hour ahead of me. Star Shot and Worthless Wench left later and made the cut an hour behind me. I went through at 1245 hrs with at least a 4-kt current accelerating me north. We all anchored just around the corner to the east of the cut.
I planned on leaving for Little Harbor, Abaco, Bahama Islands at sundown tomorrow, 05 April. But all day on the 4th and the 5th I kept waffling. Go or wait? The seas were high, the wind was high (20-25 kts) but moderating. Moonlight and Stella Polaris headed over to Spanish Wells to a marina there. Joyce was very anxious to get into a marina. Worthless Wench was also waffling about heading north with me. But they were having freezer problems and they had to get home to North Carolina for work. So they had some reasons for going.
The problem was that where we were anchored was a very protected spot from southeast and south winds. We were feeling only about 10-kts and, being just off the beach, no waves.
Finally, at 1745 I decided to go.
06 - 09 April 2008
Little Harbor, Abaco, Bahama Islands (N 26° 19.63' W 076° 59.9')
Trip: 64nm Total: 2015nm Engine 1677hrs
Hook up and off I went, eventually getting everything up and sailing along at 4.5 kts across the banks toward the deep water of the Northwest Providence Channel. About 5-miles from the anchorage the wind picked up a bit and there was a 1-ft chop. But it was behind me and I was having a great sail. Harvey, the Aries wind vane was steering without any help from me. I was in 5 kts apparent wind on my port quarter as I turned to the west to exit the banks. Still, I was in the lee of the main part of North Eleuthera and I just had a mild wind chop to deal with.
At 2000 hrs I was watching the sun set into the sea and thinking this was a great sail. GPS said I was going to make the entrance to Little Harbor at about sunrise. So everything was fine. Two other boats, Nauti-Nauti (Alan and Patricia) and Start (Gail and Bob) were about 5 miles ahead of me, having come west from Spanish Wells. Worthless Wench was about 5 miles behind me and catching up fast.
So while I was sailing all along, I wasn't really alone. Star suggested we have a radio check at the top of every hour. Nice to have someone to talk with during the night.
Once I turned north (003° M) toward Little Harbor the wind was just to the starboard of directly astern. I pointed off to starboard about 6° to let the jib catch some air. A full main and a yankee jib and I was making 4.5 - 5.0 kts in a 4-ft wind chop. As I passed the northern end of Eleuthera, I started picking up the easterly ocean swells that I had heard were running out there.
At 2100 I was mesmerized by the fantastic bio-luminescence around Galena. This was the most dense luminescence I'd seen outside of the bay in Puerto Rico. For those not familiar with it, there are these little critters that give off light when they broken up by turbulence in the water. Little blue-white sparks that last about 1-second. Usually I see them in the ocean at a density of, how to explain it, well, the sparks are about one or two feet apart. here they were only 4 or 6 inches apart. That makes for a very dense light show! All around Galena, where the bow wave rolled, there were these beautiful sparkles. I watch it most of the night.
I say most of because about 0100 I was making over 8-kts surfing down very big waves in fairly high winds. I went forward and put in a double reef and that calmed Galena down a bit. I was now back to a steady 5-kts. But my ETA was before dawn. I had to slow down more. So I sheeted in the staysail and used it more as a riding sail, damping out the now rather violent roll caused by 8-10 foot, long period seas from the east, combined with 4-6 foot short period wind chop from the SSE. A rolly, but not pounding ride. All the wind and waves were abaft the beam. But Galena was rolling from 30° to port, to 15° to starboard. I just curled up in the leeward corner of the cockpit and held on. It was a good thing I could see the sea. It might have frightened me. As it was, with a new moon, the sea and sky were just black. There was lightening far off to the west. Uncomfortable, but Galena has a regulative controlled motion in such seas and all I had to do was hang on. I even went below and made an early morning snack for myself. Again, the Aries wind vane steered well with little input from me.
By 0630hrs I could see the waves knocking me around. I was looking at seas that were subsiding a bit, and the wind was down to 15-kts SSE. Star talked with a boat that was already in the harbor and they said the waves were breaking completely across the cut at Little Harbor. So we all decided to head up the next, and larger cut about 3 miles further north. Star and Nauti-Nauti had had to slow down and wait for the dawn. They were still a few miles ahead of me. I turned left into North Bar Channel at about 0900hrs. Once I had Galena's beam to the seas she rolled violently. I had to hold on tight as we slipped between the cays and into the protected water behind Lynyard Cay. Once there I dropped all sail and motored south the 3 miles to Little Harbor.
The entrance channel to Little Harbor carries only 3.5 feet at low water. With the new moon last night, I had good tides to get in and out. I needed only 2-feet of tide and the highs were on the order of 3-feet. I arrived just after high tide and had no problem getting in (saw only 6.2 at the lowest). Once in I had to pick up a mooring. I've never done that alone. And the wind was still brisk from the SSE. I made one pass trough the harbor and found a mooring that I liked. I made one approach and missed. Bob and Chris (m/v Leap of Faith) saw me and hopped in their dinghy to help. They tossed me the painter and I was secured. Thanks, guys.
Once everything was put away I went over to Pete's Pub and had a few bears. Everyone I had been cruising with on the passage from Eleuthera was there except Worthless Wench. They were sailing so fast they decided to go directly on to Marsh Harbor.
The moorings here cost $15 per day and you pay at Pete's. Beers are $5.
A quiet night aboard and a quiet day on the 07 April. It's Monday and Pete's is closed so I stayed aboard and did boat chores. The wind is supposed to clock South then West then North and build to 20-kts. The mooring just east of me is very close. In fact, with only a very short mooring line to my mooring, the one next to me goes under my rudder as I swing around.
Pete's Bar in Little Harbor
About mid-day I saw two boats coming in the channel. One was s/v Another Adventure the other s/v Arial. Both were big boats with Arial looking to be about 50-feet. Arial went aground. I found later that she draws 6-feet and the tide was only giving her 5.5 feet. So why did she try to come in? Another Adventure turned around in the harbor and went back into the channel to help his friend. Since the tide was ebbing and AA had just barely made it the first time through, she promptly went aground, too. We all went out to help in our dinghies.
Arial aground in the channel into Little Harbor, Abaco, with a fleet of dinghy-tugs trying to get her free
We tried everything but kedging off. Finally we gave up and they sat there till the evening high tide.
Another Adventure sounded familiar so I checked my log. Sure enough, back on the ICW on 03 May 2005 I had been waiting for a bridge and doing circles with a bunch of other boats. The bridge only opened on the hour so we had a lot of boats waiting by the time it finally opened. As I made my last turn I swung too wide and ran aground. Stuck. It was Another Adventure that saw my plight, came back and tossed me a line and pulled Galena off the shoal. Then we both had to wait for the next bridge opening.
Another Adventure and Arial in the channel waiting for high tide
That time it cost him a hour, this time it cost him several hours as he had to wait for the tide to turn.
On the 8th I was at Pete's bronze foundry when they were about to do a pour. A bit of history here. Pete Johnston's father, Randolph, was a sculptor/artist. He brought his family to this harbor to find a peaceful place to work. When they first arrived here they lived in the caves on the West end of the harbor while they built their home. The foundry was constructed in the 50's and still operates; as evidenced by today's pour.
The process of mixing and smelting the bronze is quite complex. They mix their own bronze and do a lot of things to get the imperfections out of the mix. Like, they add an empty wine bottle. The glass quickly melts and all the small impurities get stuck the the sticky, melted glass. Then they lift the glass, which is floating on the surface of the molten bronze, out with metal rods. Pete's son, Brent, was actually going to do the pour. He's been working in the foundry for two years now.
Pete, the artist
Brent suiting up for the pour
Brent and Richard pouring bronze into molds
Alan and Pat from Nauti-Nauti, as were Bob and Gail of s/v Star were also in the foundry. Catching a pour was a major tourist coup. We were lucky to just happen to be here for it.
Starving artist, Christina, works on the wax originals
Pete runs a gallery showcasing his father's, as well as his own, work. Most of the pieces are far too expensive for me, running in the seven to ten thousand dollar range. But they really are special pieces.
Bob and Gail, and Alan and Pat in Pete's Foundry for the bronze pour
While at Pete's bar I talked with Charles Park, a resident on the island for the past 20-years. As it turns out he has a summer home on the Wye River just past Shaw Bay in Maryland. He invited me up for a visit when I get back.
Alan and Patricia were kind enough to invite me to their boat, Nauti-Nauti, for sundowners. The boat is a brand new Leopard 40 cat. And I mean new! It's only a couple of months old and still has that 'new boat' smell. As with most cruising cats it's spacious and well appointed. She has more berths than my house has. Along with me they invited Bob and Gail (s/v Star), and Bill and Linda (s/v Jois de Vivre). We all sat around the table on the fantail with room to spare. (In the picture below I've cropped out all the other men on board, of course). I think most of the others are heading north to Tilloo Cay today.
The Spanish Wells Fleet arrived today. That's how they referred to themselves on the radio. Moonlight Serenade, Stella Polaris, Star, and Seabbatical 1, all departed Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, together and made the crossing to Abaco. They came through the cut and anchored just outside of Little Harbor (they missed the mid-day high tide and couldn't get in). But they dinghied over to have a drink at Pete's bar and stopped by to say, 'hi.' The wind was from the north and I fear they had a wet ride home.
Happy Sundowners on s/v Nauti-Nauti with Gail, Linda, and Pat. Nothing like three beautiful women to make me smile.