02 - 22 Apr 09
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Perhaps this entry should start with something profound like, "Call me Ishmael..." Yes, it's that long.
You just go ahead and flip through the photos for now. Then, when you have a lot of time sit down with your favorite adult beverage and read about these few weeks aboard the good ship Galena.
This entry describes my departure from George Town, Exumas, and my motorsail to Long Island. I then wander through the Jumento Cays. Finally I make the "Big Turn" to the northwest and head back toward the Chesapeake Bay. This Winter's run toward the sun is almost over. But I'll make the voyage back as adventurous as I can.
02 - 11 Apr 09
George Town, Great Exuma Island, Bahamas
The other day I was invited to s/v Moonlight Serenade for 'movie-night.' Moonlight has a monster flat panel tv and we gather around to watch movies and eat popcorn.
Also there was Lee (s/v Krasna) Clark (s/v Seabbatical 1) Wayne and Isabelle (s/v Cassiopeia) and, of course Sarah and Bill of Moonlight Serenade.
I made popcorn a few times during the flick (my modest contribution) and we all had a good time. Except for Clark, who left partway through the movie citing his long day. The movie was "Irreconcilable Cruelty" (I think; the one with George Clooney and Katherine Zeta Jones?).
Being Thursday I dinghied over to the St Francis Resort for Texas Hold 'em. I came in 7th out of 37 players. Not too bad. At least I made it to the final table. But after a good hand or two the blinds eat up my small stack of chips.
For the first time in the Bahamas I bought a case of beer (Kalik) and a bag of ice. The beer was $47 and, along with some crackers, nuts, et al made for quite a little pile of munchies. I knew Tony, Jo, and I wouldn't go trough all of it. I just wanted a little something to munch on. I was planning on only being out for a few hours ("…a three hour tour…") with maybe a stop to anchor and walk a beach or something. Cold beer on board is a very nice change. I have to be careful; I might get hooked on ice.
I picked up Tony and Jo at 0900 and by 1000 we were sailing north through the harbor in brisk 15 kt SE winds. We sailed downwind a bit then, just north of Monument Beach we turned around and started tacking to windward. We tacked back and forth all the way to Fowl Cay. That's over 5 miles through the anchored cruising boats and reefs in the harbor. I let them handle the tiller a bit. At Fowl Cay we dropped the anchor and rested a bit. The wind was still up to 15 kts or more and since we were on the windward side of Fowl Cay, the water was a bit rough. About a 2-ft chop. Galena was dancing up and down a bit. I found it quite comfortable, I don't know about my guests. We drank a few beers, munched on a few munchies. And generally lay about listening to music.
Did I mention that Tony and Jo are British? Not that that has any real bearing. But it changes the flavor of the conversation a bit, what? When it comes to music Jo wanted to listen to Andre Bocelli which I gather Tony didn't like much. We lay about relaxing and chatting and munching for an hour or so.
When Tony finally gets around to relaxing, he goes all out
Then sails up and anchor up and we started the mad dash downwind back to Kidd Cove anchorage. And a mad dash it was. With just main and stay sails up we were making over 6-kts. Jo enjoyed steering Galena and Tony just enjoyed the ride.
Jo at the helm of Galena
We anchored back where we started (more or less) and again just sat around talking and drinking and munching. I offered to make something real to eat for dinner, however all I could offer was my usual fare of cruiser food. Not really the kind of thing that landlubbers enjoy. So I took them back to the dock with a promise to come over their house for supper sometime before I leave.
After returning to Galena I settled back in the cockpit to enjoy more of the cold beer (what a concept!) before the ice melted away. Dennis and Bettye (s/v Son of a Sailor) stopped by. I invited them up for a drink. We all sat in the cockpit and the sun set and I turned up the music to a bit louder that I should have. Between the songs that Dennis and I were singing along with at full volume I could hear some music coming from one of the other boats in the anchorage. I wasn't sure if it was payback or just someone else having a good evening.
Well, Dennis and Bettye left and I was starting to fade away myself. I had the music down low, I had the last of the cold beers in hand. I was looking at the stars and enjoying the night.
Then a couple of dinghies approached.
It was the party from the other boat. They were heading into town and, since I was obviously a party animal, they asked if I wanted to join them. Sure! Why the hell not?
So into my dink I hop and buzz my already drunken butt to town. There to drink myself silly with new and old friends and not get home till about 0100 when the closed the bar.
On the 4th of April I slept very late. I didn't get up until 1030hrs! I was feeling hung over as I have not felt in a long time. A bit of coffee and a bit of food and I was much better.
So I moved Galena over to Volleyball Beach. After a few hello's on friends boats I went over to St Francis for a burger and a beer. While sitting on their deck just enjoying the day George came over to me. George owns the St Francis Resort and is a part owner of the St Francis Yacht Company. Anyway, he came over and started chatting a bit. Turns out they had a special Texas Hold 'em game on Saturdays. An invitation-only event. Mostly locals and a few boaties that they liked. Anyway, with the empty chair he asked if I'd like to sit in. Sure! I was honored!
The game was different in that everyone knew what they were doing. The hands went quickly. No explanations; No reminders of who the blinds were. Just a very nice game.
Of the 10 players I came in 3rd. I won $20. The buy-in was $10. And my bar tab with the lunch and everything was $27. But still, a very nice evening and I felt privileged to be asked to join them. I know it was just because a regular couldn't make it. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the whole thing.
Susan (s/v Rosie) needed a ride home to her boat from St Francis(it's on a mooring in hole two). So I offered to dinghy her over. She invited me in for a drink and to see the boat. She's been working on this boat for several years. She even replaced the engine; by herself! I mean she went to Florida, found a replacement motor, came back on the barge with it. Then installed it. This is one tough broad. And very nice looking, to boot. We got along famously and after a drink or two I excused myself and motored back to Galena.
On the 6th, Poker night at the St Francis. Jo with there with Tony. Jo and I both did lousy and spent a good deal of time at the bar chatting. Well, I was flirting and she was allowing me to. Very polite of her.
My friends, Jeff and Stacy, were there, too. I had met them earlier in the week at the Chat n Chill beach bar. I had told Jeff about the poker games at the St Francis. He and Stacy were staying at the resort so he said he would love to join in the games. And he did. He luck was about as bad as mine. After the game was over he invited me up to his room for a couple more beers and to see the view.
I've never been into the rooms at the St Francis Resort. I was very pleasantly surprised with the appointments. These were some very nice rooms. However, even more impressive was the view! About 100 feet up on a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Technically the view is of Exuma Sound. But when you head out from the beach the next land you hit would be Europe. So I'd call it the ocean.
There was a full moon and the ocean was fairly calm. Jeff, Bird ("...everyone calls me bird since my maiden name was Wherly," said Stacy) and I sat on the balcony drinking Kalik and swapped stories for a couple of hours. It was quite the pleasant end to another wonderful day in paradise. Oh, these rooms cost about $200 per night. That's about standard in George Town. But out here you have the ocean view and that's worth the inconvenience of having to take a boat to town each day.
7th of April and I lay about and sleep all day. Winds are light, sky was cloudy. Chris Parker, the weather guy, said a cold front would pass through the central Bahamas at 2pm and he was extraordinarily accurate. With the cold front came the predicted 25 kt winds. But Galena is tucked up close to Stocking Island on the northeast side of the harbor and the water is quite calm; just a lot of wind.
Oh, and I've woven a couple of beer bottle coozies and a beer can coozie. I have to add 'beer' so the whole 'basket weaving' thing isn't too girlie. I've even done a couple of coasters and an honest-to-god basket.
My basket weaving projects
My dear friend Jillian called on the radio and asked what I was about for the afternoon. I allowed as how I was thinking about going over to the St Francis for a drink. She asked to join me and for a ride. So I dinked over to her boat and the on to the bar. We met Dennis and Bettye there as well as Jeff and Bird. And a few others. After a few drinks Jillian and I went over to s/v Son of a Sailor for another drink with Dennis and Bettye.
Jillian had been promising to cook me dinner for some time. She offered to do so tonight. Back to her boat we went and had a wonderful fish dinner. And a few more drinks. I didn't get home till well after midnight. Some days are very long with so much to do.
On the 8th of April I went to Moonlight Serenade with Sharon and Jim (s/v Insatiable) where we played guitars and then dominos. Clark stopped by for a while but then left early. He's just not into dominos, I guess. Pretty normal night in a tropical anchorage.
Clark (s/v Seabbatical 1) departing Moonlight Serenade. He's such a tired puppy.
Sharon and Jim are simply fun people to be with. Jim is a retired airline pilot. Sharon is a party animal. I've never seen Sharon without a smile on her face.
Sharon and Jim aboard Moonlight Serenade for sundowners, music, and dominos
When Bill and Sarah get out the instruments we alternate between blues (for Bill) and bluegrass (for Sarah). Oh, and folk music for me. I brought my own guitar over and we sat around jammin'.
Bill and Sarah on their boat, Moonlight Serenade
And of course I, being the gentleman, and not wanting anyone to feel left out of the music experience, gave Sharon some guitar lessons.
Guitar Lessons for Sharon
Except that Jim made popcorn this time. And he wanted real butter. So after he pops it in the pan and pours the popcorn into the big bowl he says something like, "Sarah, now we need to butter it." Sarah, who it seems never made anything but microwave popcorn, got out the butter, a butter knife and started buttering the popcorn one kernel at a time! I kid you not! She was buttering the kernels as one would a slice a bread. We all about fell on the floor laughing.
And Sharon had a new necklace that she had just bought in George Town. She tried showing it to me but I was not quite able to make it out. I think it's in this picture somewhere….
Sharon's necklace is supposedly in this picture somewhere
I'm sailing over to Long Island on Sunday. OK, I know I've said this before however this time I mean it: I'm leaving George Town. A cold front is forecast to come through on Sunday, 12 Apr. There will be no rotation of the wind; the wind will still be out of the southeast. But they will be light and maybe a bit variable. I'm going to go for it. Really. This time I mean it; I think...
Another Westsail entered the harbor the other day. It's s/v Kirian (nee Epinone). They were heading down to Panama to go surfing. I'm never sure how it is that young couples can just drop out and to what took me 55 years to get around to. But these kids are doing it. Maybe I'll bump into them down there next year.
Galena is now ready to depart. Water tanks are full and the fuel tanks are still almost full. I have enough fuel aboard to motor all the way to Charleston, SC, if I wished. Trash is removed and most loose items are secured. I'm heading over to Jo and Tony's for dinner. Jo says she can cook; I'm anxious to see if she has talent to go with that pretty face and sweet disposition.
OK, I'm back from dinner. And I must say that I had an absolutely brilliant visit with Jo and Tony. I took another tour of the development site with Jo playing salesperson. Once again I was blown away by the scope of this project. The home sites are beautifully positioned on the property in harmony with the land and the vegetation. I swear that if I had a spare million bucks lying about I'd have a home built there.
Oh, and, yes, Jo can actually cook! The meal was great as was the company and the conversation and, well, just everything about the evening; except that it eventually had to come to and end. With some folks I simply feel very comfortable and Tony and Jo are two of these kind of people. I hated to say goodbye. But I have an early and busy day tomorrow. So I took my leave. I'm really going to miss these guys. Hopefully I'll see them again sometime soon. Certainly when I next pass through George Town.
12 April 09
Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas (N 23° 21.6' W 075° 08.3')
Trip: 37nm, Total: 1904nm, Engine: 2026 hrs
SEE! I've done it! I've left George Town after only 2 months of being stuck in that harbor! I knew I could do it. OK, obviously I really like George Town; and the Exuma Islands in general. I started to get the urge to move on over month ago. However, every time I started looking to the east I was convinced by either friends, events, or weather to stay put "… for just another week or so." And weeks in the tropics turn rapidly into months.
The 40-mile trip to Long Island from Great Exuma Island was uneventful. Mostly I just sat there and let the autopilot drive Galena along the coast and over the banks. It was sunny, hot, and windless most of the way.
Yours truly relaxing in route to Long Island.
I had to motorsail all the way here. And the last couple hours I just motored. There was absolutely no wind. The water was a glassy smooth.
Arriving at Long Island. Smooth Seas. No wind. The line of clouds is just convective heat rise due to the sun heating the land
Let me talk about the water again. I wish I had the vocabulary to describe the view from the deck of a boat on the water here in the Bahamas. To say the water is turquoise doesn't come close to capturing the range of shades of blue. The cacophony if colors from the almost-white shallows where the white sand is just a foot or so beneath the surface, through the turquoise water of moderately deep water to the deep blue-black of the sounds is beyond my capability to describe. And just saying the water is clear isn't enough. To all you 'brown-water' sailors out there, the joy of sailing through 15-ft deep water and being able to look down and see the grasses and starfish gliding under Galena's keel is something you must simply experience to understand.
I recommend that everyone, at some time in their life get down here and sail around on the banks; island to island. You'll glide over water that stays 10-15 feet deep for hundreds of miles. Except for a few easy-to-see and easy-to-avoid coral heads there's nothing to interrupt the relaxation brought on my warm tropical breezes, painfully blue skies, and crystal clear water.
Starfish on the sandy bottom (lower right) in 15 feet of water gliding under Galena
The camera can't capture it, either. The picture above is not nearly as vibrant as what I saw looking at the real thing. Fortunately I'll carry the memories with me for a while. And when they fade, I'll just sail right back down here and make new ones.
I left GT at 0700 and was here with anchor down by 1430 hrs. Just a little 40 mile run. In resetting the trip odometer, I noted that I had registered over 200 miles while in that harbor. I usually leave the GPS on all day and night to watch how Galena is swinging at her anchor. Every moment of every day Galena is in motion. It may be only a fraction of a knot. But it all adds up. I was surprised to see that I have 'swung' over 200 miles in two months at anchor. Well, 30 miles was the race around the island. And there were, what? Seven or eight moves between the anchorages and that would add a mile each. But 200 miles while sitting still? Wow! Here's a question: should I count that 200 miles in my total miles for the trip? I will for now but will subtract it at the end of the voyage.
I no sooner get the hook down that I get a radio call from one of the other boats here saying there was a pot-luck on the beach at 5 pm. Still among those souls who feel a need to organize events. But I wanted to see who was here, so I went.
Lined up for food at the pot-luck beach party on Easter Sunday, Long Island, Bahamas
The usual assortment of cruisers, kids, and misfits such as myself. Being Easter Sunday, someone organized an Easter Egg Decorating contest. And then a hunt. And then a smash. At some point one of the cruisers mumbled under his breath something about, "I thought we had left George Town." Referring to the constant 'organized activities' of that regatta.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Jim an Sharon (s/v Insatiable) there. Along with quite a few others from George Town. Rob from s/v Duet was there.
I also met John Sweeny. John's boat was washed up on the beach here during a hurricane in 1996. He and his wife decided to just stay put. They bought a piece of land just down the beach. He used concrete to fill the holes in his boat's hull. Then he had the boat towed down to his beach property. He let the wind and waves push it up on the beach as far as it would go. Then he hired a bulldozer to drag it further up from the surf. He used scaffolding to hold her upright and he and his wife moved back aboard while he built his new house. They lived like that for about a year. Now the continue to use the land-locked boat as a unique guest house for visitors.
John Sweeny, living here since being boat wrecked in 1996
There's some sort of local mini-regatta tomorrow. Then with the Easter holiday most businesses will be closed till Tuesday. So I'll hang around till at least Wednesday when I'll have seen most of what there is to see. Then I'll move on to Water Cay in the Jumento's.
My planned route is from George Town, Great Exuma, over the banks to Thompson Bay on the west side of Long Island. Then west through the shallow Comer Passage to just south of Hog Cay. And finally south through the Jumento Cays before turning northwest (and homeward) across the southern edge of the Great Bahama Banks
The route from George Town, Exuma to Long Islandand then down the Jumento Cays
After the Jumento Cays and Ragged Islands I'll either go directly to Miami (or Lake Worth) or first stop at the Cay Sal Banks. Depends on my mood and the wind. The long run to Miami is over 340 miles and would be my longest singlehanded leg yet. Stopping on the banks is only possible in very light winds and settled weather. I have to be prepared to sail right through, non-stop. Strangely, if it's good sailing wind, it's bad stopping wind. The Bahama Banks are only about 25-ft deep through most of the area shaded blue on the chart below. Sailing through there at night is dangerous in that there are many uncharted coral heads. But they usually rise up only about 10-feet from the bottom so in anything over 15-ft of water I should be OK. And since at night I wouldn't be able to see them anyway I may as well catch a little shut-eye. The route from Ragged Islands to Miami is 350 nm. Going all the way to Lake Worth is only another 40 miles. I may do that, again depending on weather and sea state.
Taking the side trip to the Cay Sal Banks would be fun and would allow me to anchor two-thirds of the way from the Raggeds to Florida. It's a win-win if the wind cooperates and both my mood and sleep-rate allow it. However (there's always a however) I don't have good charts of the area. And I have not been able to find them. So I may just blow that side-trip off for this year.
Planned route back to the States from Jumentos & Raggeds (Side trip to Cay Sal Banks is optional and weather- and attitude-dependent)
Of course, if the US government opens up Cuba for leisure travel I'm only 30-miles away for the next couple of weeks. And I would swing south in a heartbeat!
13 Apr 09
Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas
Today was the Long Island mini-regatta. About 5 class-C Bahamian sailing skiffs ran three laps around a triangular course in the lower harbor here. I spent the day with Jim and Sharon aboard their cat s/v Insatiable. We motored out onto the course in my little dink and got quite wet. The wind was about 15 kts and the waves were a little high for an overloaded inflatable. But the winds were about perfect for the racers.
There was also the obligatory party on shore with drink and food and good times all around. I had the pleasure of spending some time with Bernard of s/v Ti Matou. He's a Frenchmen transplanted to Canada. Bernard had some interesting things to say about the Quebecqua.
Too much beer and a wet ride back to s/v Insatiable for dinner with Jim and Sharon. Then drinks with them and Brian and Jen, and Mark and Angie, and Lynn and Ken. They were all folks from boats that had been around me at George Town, Exuma.
We watched the sunset from the deck of s/v Insatiable looking for that elusive green flash. But not today... Too many clouds; too much haze.
On the 14th I finally went to the Long Island Breeze Resort and met Jackie, partner with Mike in the ownership of the resort. Jackie has a bit of a cynical attitude but is sort of fun. Mike, and Jackie, work their asses off at the resort. They've only been open for about a year.
The temporary dinghy dock outside the Long Island Breeze Resort
There's no beach at the Island Breeze. There's just what the local's call an iron shore. But Mike says he's going to build a large platform down there to accommodate dinghies and small fishing boats. It's in the long-range plan.
The shoreline outside the Long Island Breeze Resort
Some things are very difficult in the Bahamas for entrepreneurs. For example, while the Long Island Breeze is 'downtown' the island's water pipes don't reach that far, yet. So Mike has to truck water from the RO (reverse osmosis) plant to the tanks at the resort just about every day. You want to do laundry? Make an appointment and you will be told how many loads you can to. Water rationing is strict.
The 15th was going to be just a quiet evening aboard Galena. Then Jim (s/v Insatiable) called and said he and Sharon were heading over to the Island Breeze for a drink. Asked if I wanted to join them. Sure, why not?
While there we were joined by Allan and Patricia of s/v Nauti-Nauti. Old friends from last year in the Abacos. A few more drinks then dinner aboard Insatiable. Oh, while at the Island Breeze I twice had a problem with being overcharged. I was in a pay-as-I-drink mode. I was paying for each beer as I received it, rather than running a tab. First beer: no problem. Second beer: Mike says, "This is for both beers, right?" "No, I already paid for the first one." "Oh, yeah," he says. Then the third beer I get from Jackie. She takes my $5 and doesn't even offer me my $1 change. I figure she might have misunderstood the offer of the five as "Keep the change," so I let it go. Then beer four comes along and I had her a ten, she gives me back two. I say, "Expensive beer." She said she took out for the last one and this one. I say I already paid for the last one. She said no, you didn’t. She offered to give me back the five bucks but wouldn't believe I had already paid. So I had her keep the money. Sometimes being hot with a nice body isn't enough.
Jackie and Mike, owners of the Long Island Breeze Resort
On the way back to Galena from Insatiable I noticed the bioluminescence in the water. You know the little blue-white sparks that flash in the foam of your bow wave? Well this was happening in the bow wave of my dinghy. I looked astern and saw the prop wake glowing brightly. By the time I found Galena my eyes were well adjusted to the dark, moonless night. I sat in the dinghy after I tied it up to Galena. With my hand in the water, just wriggling my fingers made sparks fly. And whipping my hand about made a bright glow in the water. I had not seen a light show like this since that little bioluminescent pond in Puerto Rico a few years ago. I called Insatiable to let them know about it. Just sticking the point of a boat hook into the water and stirring it around made quiet a light show.
On the 16th I spent the day repairing the dinghy floor again. This air deck is much more trouble than it's worth. Don't get one! I peeled off the old patches; easier than I would like to have been able to do. The spent a couple of hours getting all the glue off the surface. Then sanded and cleaned the areas. Then new patches and had them set under the pressure of a six-gallon jug of fuel for several hours. The next day I gently inflated the floor and loaded the dinghy for transport to Water Cay. When I arrived there and launched the dinghy the floor was flat again! I just can't get this floor fixed! I give up. I'll inflate it each day and just put up with it until I can get my hard dinghy from the Bay.
17 Apr 09 (Friday)
Water Cay, Jumentos, Bahamas
I departed Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas at 0800 hrs this morning. I arrived here at 1630 hrs and dropped the anchor near a local fishing boat that was also trying to hide from the waves in this little cove. Usually the winds are from the east. But today they are from the north-northeast and that allows the waves to wrap around the headland and sweep into this little cove. It's going to be a rough night, I fear. And I won't sleep well with the 'iron shore' of this cove just downwind. If the anchor drags and Galena is swept a mere 300 yards we'll be on the rocks. But during the night the wind is supposed to swing more to the east and the risk will diminish; according to the forecasts.
When I awoke at 0630 the winds were from 030 degrees and blowing 10 to 15 knots. The weather forecast from Chris Parker didn't hold any surprises: Easterly winds about 15 knots for the next several days with moderation to 10-kts on Sunday but clocking more to the southeast. Today was the perfect day to make the run to the Jumentos.
There was a dance party scheduled at the Long Island Breeze Resort on Saturday and I had planned on staying for that. But this morning I just decided to leave. What's one more night of drinking and partying. Besides, I was the only scoundrel left here and my wit and charm would probably not be appreciated. Many of the 10 or so boats here have children, the others are not party people from what I have seen.
I decided to sail off the hook today. Very few boats in this end of the bay so I had plenty of room to get Galena under control and out onto the banks. Everything went well. Once a few hundred yards east of the other boats I raised the 130% Genoa to go along with the full main I had used to sail away from the anchor. Galena was galloping along downwind at over 6-kts on a level keel.
The bay had little wave action but once I was clear of the headland and onto the banks the waves quickly kicked up to 3-4 feet. That made for a bit of a rough ride. But the wind and waves were coming over the starboard quarter so it wasn't too bad. Just a nice downwind romp.
Comer Passage is a wide and shallow swale running west from Salt Pond, Long Island to just south of Great Exuma Island. From there one can continue west into the Tongue of the Ocean or turn north through the very shallow Hog Cay Cut and into the Exuma Sound. Or one can turn south and run down the back side of the Jumento Cays and the Ragged Islands toward Cuba. That's what I did.
I stayed within 300 feet of the route depicted on the Explorer Chart Book for this passage. The chart book shows a minimum depth of 5.5 feet MLW. I was showing +1.1-ft of tide at the time I passed through the shallowest part of the pass. There were a few quite shallow areas of about 6.6-ft but nothing thinner than that. So the charts are correct.
Once I turned south at the West Comer Waypoint the water was 8-ft deep and getting deeper every mile. I called for Moonlight Serenade who was still in George Town but couldn't get them on the VHF. But I was called by Wayne on m/v My Sharona. He had heard me calling and just wanted to say hi and to let me know that everyone missed me at poker. I called Moonlight the next morning on SSB just before Chris Parker's weather report (4045 MHz at 0630 EDT). Sarah answered right away and we switch to 4009 MHz as we had discussed a week ago. Since Galena was only 30 miles away from Moonlight the connection was excellent! We chatted for a couple of minutes and then had to get back to 4045 to hear the weather reports. Good to hear her voice again.
The water was a comforting 30-ft deep for the final 14 miles. But the waves built up to 4-6 feet. However, the wind and waves were directly on my stern so they were not too rough to take. I gybed back and forth for the final few hours of the trip just to make it easier for the auto pilot to steer.
There were a lot of dolphins in the water as I approached the Jumento Cays. They played around Galena's bow for about half an hour. Here's a short video clip of dolphins on my bow (Click here. The video is uploaded to YouTube as: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxLdDKFRKN4).
By the time I arrived at Water Cay I was down to a double reefed mainsail and a staysail. Still I was making over 5-kts and was quite pleased with Galena's performance.
As I swung around into this little bite of a cove, there was already one commercial fishing boat anchored here. It's name was "Southern Comfort."
Local commercial fishing boat "Southern Comfort" hiding from the waves for the night
Just about sundown a second, larger fishing boat named "Coastal Romper" joined us and anchored for the evening.
A second local commercial fishing boat, Coastal Romper, joined Galena in the little cove
Now if the wind will just clock to the east and the waves die down a bit. Tomorrow I'd like to go conching and see about frying up some cracked conch.
18 Apr 09 (Saturday)
Water Cay, Jumentos, Bahamas<
Today I didn't do much of anything important. I put on the sail covers (something I was too tired/lazy to do when I arrived yesterday). And I launched the dinghy. I was very sad to see that the two new patches that I put on didn't hold air and the rigid-air-deck was still a floppy-air-deck. I'll have to pump it up whenever I want to use it until I can get it fixed back in the states.
I had a rough night last night what with all the bouncing around. That and sleeping in the main saloon so I'm closer to the GPS and it's rather faint anchor drag alarm. But the bouncing around was pretty bad most of the night. Finally at about 0300 the wind died enough for Galena to settle down and let me get some sleep. The good news is the anchor held just fine. The bad news is that the waves keep wrapping around the northern point of this little cove. I'll stick around again tomorrow. Then, with the forecast moderation of the wind I'll move down a couple of cays and try my luck at conching and spear fishing there.
Oh! I was playing around with my camera and made a little 1-minute video clip. I noticed that I didn't have any 'documentary' type video's. So here's the first (a little late in this trip, perhaps). I provide it mostly for those who have never actually met me. At least you can see and hear me in my native environment. The video is uploaded to YouTube.com. Just click on this link.
By 2000 hrs the wind was back up with continued squalls. Even though the wind had clocked around to 060° as forecast, the waves still wrapped around the point of this cove. So, again, it's rough. But tonight I have more faith in the anchor being set. And the waves are mostly on the beam. So I'll sleep a lot better.
But with all the wind, I have lot's of power. So I spent the day organizing my music collection on my external hard drive. Dennis (s/v Son of a Sailor) had given me a bunch of new music for me collection. He had just copied from his external hard drive to mine. Now I had to move his albums into the proper folders in my collection. But once I got everything moved and all the duplicates deleted, I ended up with over 65,000 songs; that's 280 GB of mp3's and about 18,000 songs I didn't have before (Thanks, Dennis!). I then ran though my little MP3 player and got rid of a bunch of songs I was tired of or never really liked in the first place. Then I deleted all the duplicates (Jimmy Buffett has Margarittaville on just about every album!). That gave me few free GB of space there.
For my music source aboard Galena I generally run my mp3 player (Creative Labs Zen Vision-M, 30GB) through Galena's (car) stereo's Aux Input. That gives me a lot of my favorite music and, with the player in the cockpit, control of volume and cuts while sailing. But even the 6,000 or so songs on the player get old after a few months. So I swapped them out with others from my main store of music, which is on a 500GB external drive. This whole music organization thing took up a goodly part of my morning.
19 Apr 09 (Sunday)
Before I left George Town I received word that the promised marina slip at Patuxent River Naval Air Station isn't available. And that it wouldn't be available until at least June or even July. Bummer! I was counting on that marina as a home base for this summer. The news made me reconsider the whole 'go north to the Chesapeake' thing. But I have to retrieve my hard dinghy from Mears Point Marina. And I want to see my old friends there. And I have some other things to do in the area. So, yeah, I'll go north one more time. When I get back to the States I'll make some calls to marinas in the Chesapeake Bay area. Specifically I'll call White Sands Marina. I've heard they just rebuilt their docks to go with last year's rebuild of the other on-site facilities. They are about a mile or so up St Leonard Creek, off the Patuxent River, about 8 miles west of the Chesapeake Bay. If they are inexpensive enough I might use them as a home base. Failing that, I'll just anchor out in Back Creek at Solomon's Island. Cozy spots abound and I know people in the area.
I talked with Sarah this morning on SSB. She and Bill are still in George Town and will stay there through the 25th at least. She reminded me that it was Sunday and there was not weather report for the day. So we chatted away for a bit. Her friend, Greg, is coming into George Town for the Family Island Regatta. After the regatta, Greg is flying back home and Sarah and Bill will sail Moonlight Serenade north. Probably the same path we all took last year: Eleuthera then the Abacos.
20 Apr 09 (Monday)
I slept a little later today. I drank a lot of rum last night and just didn't feel my best this morning. That will teach me… or not. I did get up early enough to listen to the weather forecast. Windy today and tomorrow. But the direction is good. I got ready to depart. I pulled off the sail covers and secured the dink to the cabin top. Then I had a cup of coffee and thought about it for a while. The sky was cloudy and the wind was building rather than moderating. I rethought the whole thing. Yeah, I'll stay put another day or so.
I listened to the conversations between three sailboats coming north up the Jumento Cays. They were discussing whether or not to continue north toward Great Exuma or to stop here at Water Cay. But the part that made me shake my head in discuss was that none of them would/could make a decision. It was as if each was afraid to state his desires or intentions. Just a bunch of "…I'll do whatever you guys decide," and no one was willing to decide. Three men on three boats and not one of them the master of his own vessel. Decision by committee is no way to sail a boat. That's my not-so-humble opinion. But it seems to work for them (and others) so I should just let it go.
They ended up stopping here at Water Cay. They arrived about 1000 hrs. The first (s/v Breathless) came right in next to me and anchored a couple of hundred feet away. I thought, "Hey! It's a big island, buddy." The second boat anchored a good 600 yard away. Nice. And the third one somewhere in between. So now I have company along with the two commercial fishing boats that were here for the past couple of days.
By early afternoon the clouds parted and the temperature went up from the chilly 72° to a warm 83°. The wind also moderated as it was directed to by the forecasters. Tomorrow will be a nice day to sail further south along the Jumento Cays. I think I might go all the way to Jamaica Cay; about 20-nm from here (not to be confused with Jamaica, the island south of Cuba, of course). The wind will be a bit ahead of the beam but will be under 15-kts so I should have a nice sail.
The wind is supposed to be even more on the bow tomorrow. But I'll still be able to get where I'm going, I think. Three more sailboats arrived at 1630hrs (including Diva). They had been in GT and were returning for Regatta.
21 Apr 09 (Tuesday)
Flamingo Cay, Jumentos, Bahamas
N 22° 53.047' W 075° 52.164'
Trip: 14nm, Total: 1987nm, Eng: 2127 hrs
Departed Water Cay a late in the morning. But an interesting thing happened on the way to Flamingo Cay: I fell asleep without intending to. I woke up about 20 minutes later (according to the track in the GPS). I was only 1000' from shoals that would have been unfortunate to hit. Even after I woke up it took a full 5 minutes to get my shit together. Fortunately I had just dropped the Genoa (the wind had been picking up and that 130% Gennie was just too much sail) and tucked a reef in the main. Maybe it was all the hard work of dowsing the jib that wore me out. Maybe it was the sudden moderation of the wind that lulled me into a brief slumber. But whatever it was, it was dangerous to do so close to coral heads and islands. I have to be more careful during those times I don't really plan to fall asleep.
Anyway. I decided to stop here at Flamingo Cay to get some rest after only 3-hrs of sailing. There was one other boat here when I arrived but he left shortly thereafter. So I have the place to myself.
Where is Flamingo Cay, you ask? Well it's in the lower-right of this map:
I'm in the northern eastern anchorage:
Flamingo Cay Anchorage and track there into
Oh, and the abandoned light isn't. It works just fine.
Flamingo Cay Anchorage and track there into
After my much-needed nap, I did a little fishing but didn't catch anything. I took a much-needed bath. And generally relaxed aboard Galena. As I write (2030hrs) the wind is less than 5-kts from the west. So it's just a little bumpy here. But not bad. I'm in 12-ft of water but only about 300-ft from shore. I'll be more comfortable when the wind clocks to the northeast. The forecast is for north winds tomorrow (about 5-kts) clocking to ENE and increasing to 10-15kts by evening. If that forecast holds (I'll know by 0700 tomorrow) I might try to make a run south before the winds increase. Once they increase and clock to the east they are supposed to stay over 20-kts with showers and squalls until Monday. I'd like to be a bit further south for that. If I can get 34 nm south (about 7 or 8 hrs travel time) then I'll be able to turn northwest and head for the Cay Sal Banks next week. After that it's Florida and the run up the coast to the Chesapeake Bay.
I talked with Sarah (s/v Moonlight Serenade) this morning before listening to the weather report. She told me that Kendal's (the bartender at Chat 'n Chill) son had been murdered last night. Talk about bad news. Also that some Bahamians in speed boats had been running through the anchorage in George Town and hit one of the anchored sailboats. Elvis, the harbor master, detained them until the police arrived. Sounds as if they had a really bad day in George Town.
Being so close to shore (I had to be this close to be protected from the north) I won't rest well until the wind clocks completely around to north. There will be nothing downwind of me then and I can drag for a mile or so before I hit anything.
22 Apr 09
Raccoon Cay, Ragged Islands, Bahamas
N 22° 21.3' W 075° 48.8'
Trip: 35nm, Total: 2022nm Eng: 2134hrs
Departed Flamingo Cay at 0730hrs and arrived here at 1440hrs. It's hot today: 80° Wind: 7kts 320°. I had to motorsail all the way here. And I may have to stay here a while. Nothing but high winds forecast for the next week. Even though I'm heading downwind I really don't want to put up with 6-ft seas; even on the stern.
But the trip to Raccoon Cay was delightful! Good sailing all the way. I had all of the sails up and moved along at a nice clip over smooth seas. You can't ask for more than that.
I never tire of looking up at the set of the sails
I also noticed that my Bahamian courtesy flag is about gone. It's been up there at the spreader for three months now. And in some significant winds, I might add. I guess I'll have to buy a new one next year.
The courtesy flag is about frayed away.
I'm all alone here. I think everyone is in George Town for the Family Island Regatta this week. This corner of the cove is a bit rolly. But the wind is supposed to clock around more to the east and then this place will be OK.
23 Apr 09
Rough night what with all the rolling around. Sometimes it was so bad that I about rolled out of my berth!
I'm thinking about moving to the northern end of this cove. It looks a little smoother up there (about 1/4 mile north of where I am).
OK, I no sooner write those words in my log than I see not one, but three boats come around the island and head for that spot I was just thinking about! My quiet little hideaway has just been invaded by… wait a minute. I know that boat. It's s/v Kokopelli with Liz and Allen. I'd met them in GT and partied with them on Son of a Sailor. They call me on the radio and we get together for drinks, walks on the beach and general partying. I meet their new friends George and Suely on m/v Lady Belle and Pete and Dee on s/v Wind Lass.
Later in the day we are joined by yet another boat (it's a damned mini-George Town here!). This boat is s/v JusDreamin' with Denny and Diane. The boat name sounded familiar to me but I couldn't place it. Anyway we all went to the "beach" where introductions were made all around. As part of what was to become, over the next week or so, a daily ritual we gathered on the beach and walked across the to ocean side of the island. It wasn't a long walk, but the 'ground' was just rock; that sharp, pointy rock that one finds all over here.
Once on the ocean side most of us stopped to rest while some of the ladies continued to explore the shoreline .
This is Diane, Denny, Pete, and Allen on the ocean side of Raccoon Cay
Note the nature of the ground
This picture of an old stone wall shows a bit of the nature of the environment.
The island is covered with old stone walls. I think they were used to mark property lines a long time ago. But no one lives here now.
I put beach in quotes because like many islands down here the beach is mostly just rock. After talking with Denny for a bit (and flirting with his wife, Diane) he and I realized that we had actually met last year. He and I had crossed the Bahama Banks together in January of '08. Then I had had a few beers with him at the Chat 'n Chill in GT.
25-29 Apr 09
Dinner tonight on Kokopelli. This turned into a bit of a ritual. Who would invite whom to dinner, drinks etc. I was pitied and invited to dinner several times
Our little clique of boats is getting very tight. Nice people all, and me. We get along well. We have nice conversations. We have great meals. We learn new card games. We explore each other's boats. We snorkel and hunt fish and conch. We walk the trails and beaches.
All this while we wait for the wind to die down. Which it doesn't! Over 20-kts of wind from the east for over a week! I don't mind the wind since I'd be running with it. But I don't really need the high seas they will build up. And I'm having a good time with my new friends, too.
But I'm also getting a bit bored. Here, look at this. I'm even taking pictures of clouds fer chrissake! Well, they were pretty.
Just a silly picture of clouds...
On the night of 29 Apr, we all gathered on Lady Belle for a final party. Well, final for me. The rest will stay together for the next few weeks. I finally remembered to take my camera and annoyed everyone by snapping photos most of the night. Lady Belle is an Endeavour 48 trawler cat. This is literally a condo on the water. It's huge!
So, here we go. Faces to go with the names.
George (m/v Lady Belle) explaining his cockpit controls
And Denny (s/v JusDreamin') pretending to drive Lady Belle
Denny's wife, Diane (s/v JusDreamin'), heading upstairs in Lady Belle
George's wife, Suely, with her broken finger aboard Lady Belle
The book exchange. Dee and Pete (s/v Wind Lass) with Allen (s/v Kokopelli) looking on
Allen and Liz (s/v Kokopelli)
Smokers on the back deck of Lady Bell with Galena in the background
30 Apr 09
Enroute from Raccoon Cay, Bahama Islands, to Lake Worth, FL.
The winds have died enough with the promise of continued moderation for the next few days. So we're off. The clan will run north and then NW along the bank-side of the Exuma chain. I head directly west to the bottom of Andros Island and then NW to Florida.
Planned route back to the States from Raccoon Cay, Ragged Islands, Bahamas
I've decided not to go to the Cay Sal Banks. The lack of good charts scares me. Maybe next time.
For the first two days on the banks I saw no one and nothing. Just me, 30-ft of water, and a horizon. The skies were mostly blue. The wind was mostly east or southeast at 15-20 kts. The seas were 6' on day one, down to 3' by late on day two. I saw no coral heads during the daylight hours. That made running along the banks at night a bit less unnerving.
The moon set about 0130hrs. After that there was nothing but stars above and just a hint of the water around me. Mostly visible in the loom of the stern light. But it was a good ride. I stayed below most of the night. Just popping up to look around every 20 minutes or so. My egg timer got quite a workout.
Once I made the turn northwest under Andros Island I started getting concerned again about coral heads. Up to that point the water was over 30-ft deep. Most coral heads don't get much above 10-ft in height. But when you're running in only 15-ft of water an unseen coral head can be a real problem. But, again, nothing to be concerned about.
But I never saw a single coral head on the whole trip (once past the ones marked on the chart near the Raggeds. The first other people I saw was after I had made the exit from the banks to the Gulf Stream. I immediately started seeing ocean traffic. Freighters, Coast Guard cutters, Helicopters. In fact, a Coast Guard helicopter buzzed me early on the 2nd. He came from the north and circled me about 200-ft off the water. I waved (nude, of course). He flew off. Then later in the day he returned. Again he flew around me. But then he stopped and hovered looking right at me. Finally he called me on the radio. He asked the usual Homeland Security questions: Name and registration number of the boat; number of souls on board; last port; destination; citizenship and name of vessel owner. Then he was off. I saw him one last time. Just after sunset before it got dark. He came running right toward me and circled me low. Then off he went toward Miami.
I only saw one ship that I actually changed course for. I probably didn't have to. But the "Constant Bearing, Decreasing Range" rule said to me, "Turn now, Bill!" So I did.
I got a good boost from the Gulf Steam as I ran up the Florida coast. At times I was making over 9-kts in only 10-kts of wind on the stern. About 0230hrs I had to start the engine. The batteries were low and the wind was dropping and coming from an uncomfortable quarter. So I motorsailed the final two hours into Lake Worth (Palm Beach, FL).
I came into the harbor just after moonset (damn!). It was very dark (0400 hrs). I was moving very slowly. I found a spot that looked good. But as soon as I let loose the anchor a neighbor, hearing the chain rattling down, called, "A bit close, isn't it, mate!" So I moved. The wind was coming up. The chop in the harbor was getting to me. The lack of sleep was getting to me. I moved about 300 yards further south and dropped the hook.
03 May 09
Trip: 383nm, Total: 2442nm, Eng: 2137hrs
Total trip time: 67 hrs.
A quick nap. A call to Michelle, my daughter. A call to Customs. I have to visit immigrations tomorrow. Then I'll move about 4-miles north and spend a day or so reprovisioning. Then it's on to St Augustine