We've spent three years cruising to the Bahamas on Pegu Club, our Bristol 29.9. Time to switch it up a bit and head to Southern California for the winter, tent camping our way across the United States.
After our driving tour of Eleuthera we turned our thoughts towards going back to the states. We had been in the Bahamas for almost four months, and we were increasingly fantasizing about Publix and other conveniences. This had been the longest stay of our three trips, and we agreed that next time we would keep it to three months. That seems to be about when we are ready for a change of scenery. The beaches and the water are gorgeous, but when it starts to feel like just another beach it’s time to go.
We wanted to cross back to the U.S. from the Abacos so we picked the best day to make the 55 nautical mile trip over from Eleuthera. Of course “best day” was relative. We were looking at a solid week of sloppy, rolly, crappy conditions so we chose the day that appeared to be the least sloppy, rolly, and crappy. We prefer not to have long days in those conditions, but at least if we know that’s how it’s going to be we can be mentally prepared for it. The forecast didn’t disappoint, but we sucked it up and anchored by Lynard Cay in the southern Abacos at the end of a long day. Continue reading “Time to head back to the states.”→
After we waved goodbye to Rock Sound, we had a great sail to one of our favorite anchorages in Eleuthera (well, of the ones we’ve seen so far): Alabaster Bay. This anchorage is simply gorgeous, and while we would have loved to stay a bit longer, the wind direction wasn’t really cooperating with a southerly component.
Little did we know that when we decided to go to Rock Sound instead of George Town it would turn out to be one of the smartest decisions we made this cruising season. We knew that the anchorage in Rock Sound would be excellent if we ended up pinned down for several days due to high winds, and when we left Staniel Cay that was exactly what was in the forecast. What no one could have foreseen at the time, though, was that those several days of winds would turn into almost two weeks with very little respite.
The trip to Rock Sound itself was uneventful once we made it through Conch Cut. That part was “entertaining.” When the wind blows strongly from the east, the cuts between the Exuma cays can develop what is called a “rage” when the wind is against the current. While we had previously experienced sloppy departures, we hadn’t ever been in what we would consider a rage. I think now we may know what people are talking about. Continue reading “A fortuitous decision.”→
I think it’s almost inevitable. If you do anything long enough, you start to get a bit complacent. The only problem with doing that on a boat is Mother Nature will give you a smack in the face to bring you back to your senses. Fortunately the repeated smacks we experienced over a a few weeks didn’t do any damage except to our psyche.
Leaving Red Shanks turned out to be the first of a series of poor decisions for Pegu Club’s crew. After a rolly motor sail to Lee Stocking, we enjoyed a great day anchored in front of “our” beach, doing some snorkeling and swimming. The water was already warmer than it had been just a few weeks ago which was a welcome development – it will only get warmer as the days go by!
Looking at the weather forecast, the wind was going to clock more to the south-southeast which meant that the anchorage in Lee Stocking would be fairly exposed. We decided we would ride it out the next day – our first poor decision. The winds ended up being substantially higher than forecast so that by mid-morning it was honking in the steady low 20’s with higher gusts, bringing 3+ foot waves onto a lee shore. For non-sailors, that means the wind was blowing towards the land – not good. We raised the anchor and motored over to Rat Cay – a much better decision.
The next day we took a look at the tide tables and the weather and decided we should move north in anticipation of a front that would be arriving in several days. It was a long day but a very nice sail, and we ended up back in Pipe Cay where we anchored in our up-to-that-point favorite spot in Pipe where we planned to wait out the front. Our second poor decision. We dropped the anchor slightly west of where we had during our previous visits – something that we would find out later was our third poor decision. Continue reading “A series of poor decisions.”→
Last year we were stuck in George Town and Red Shanks for close to a month as we waited out cold front after cold front. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with George Town and Red Shanks per se. It’s just that it’s not for us. So what did we do this year? The strongest front of the winter was coming, we were 25 nautical miles away in Lee Stocking, and we let the siren calls of the most well-stocked grocery stores in the Exumas suck us back in.
We had to settle for a motor sail from Rock Sound, but it was well worth it because after an uneventful day (except for the joy of the dolphins that followed along beside us for ten minutes – they never get old!) we were dropping the anchor in one of our favorite spots: Pipe Cay. A small blow was predicted so the next day we followed our track from last year’s adventure and slid into our hands-down favorite hidey hole in the back of Pipe. Although we still play the tides, it’s MUCH less stressful being able to follow last year’s track on the chart plotter.
After the blow we moved over to Staniel Cay (another favorite spot), then proceeded to spend the next week and a half moving between Staniel and Pipe as the weather dictated. We found a great spot to snorkel in Pipe and alternated between exploring and loafing around until we saw a nice stretch of weather to continue farther south.
Weather can be so cool. This picture was off the starboard side of the boat at Staniel one morning:
And this was the view off the port side of the boat:
A stop in Little Bay was next, along with a hike to the blow hole (which I find very entertaining) in Black Point:
Thar she blows!
We then moved on to Lee Stocking where we snorkeled among plenty of fish and several rays, including one that was literally at least three feet across.
We absolutely love Lee Stocking. The water is so clear, and between the swimming, snorkeling, and hiking, we could easily spend weeks there (something we hope to do on our way north now that we have a water maker).
Unfortunately after several days a look at the weather for the upcoming week made it clear to us that it was time to skedaddle. After debating whether to head north back up to Pipe or south to Red Shanks, the desire to get more food at a well-stocked and reasonably priced (for the Bahamas) grocery store tipped the scales, so we pointed the bow towards Red Shanks near George Town.
We spent almost a week and a half in Rock Sound before moving on to the Exumas. We like Rock Sound quite a bit. There are some things to see, it’s a very good place to stock up on groceries and supplies, and the anchorage is great – excellent holding, plenty of room regardless of the number of boats, and good all-around protection as long as you’re willing to move your boat depending on the wind direction.
It has been truly amazing at how few cruisers we’ve seen. When we were in Rock Sound our first year there were probably 30 other boats. This time we shared the anchorage with two others until a blow came in which raised the number of boats to a whopping six.
They say that cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places, but we have been extremely lucky since cutting the dock lines. Of course it helped that we did a complete refit on the boat before we left, but so far it’s been easy to find parts for the few minor repairs we’ve had. Well, our luck officially ran out last month.
Over the summer we, unbeknownst to us, had some water in the gasoline that went into the water maker. We discovered it over the summer when the water maker engine was coughing, just like the engine on our dinghy outboard did when we had water in that gas last winter in Red Shanks. So we poured out the gas and proceeded to use the water maker without any issues. Until. . . .
We went to start it when we were anchored in Royal Island, Eleuthera and saw that gasoline was leaking out of the carburetor. After doing some inspecting, Jeff noticed that the bolts holding the carb in place were loose, so he carefully tightened them. Now, Jeff used to be an air frames mechanic in the Marines so he knows how far he should tighten bolts. So the only thing we can figure is that there was a quality control issue with the bolt, because it broke.
Our plan for this season is to move to the Exumas via the Abacos and Eleuthera as quickly as the weather and circumstances allow. It’s simply warmer in the Exumas. Later in the spring as we head back north we’ll dawdle in Eleuthera and the Abacos, and we may also explore a bit farther afield in the interim.
Regular readers may remember that our first year in the Bahamas we checked in at Green Turtle and followed the same path, having a great time and sailing most of the way. Last year (our second year) we made the mistake of going to the Bahamas via Bimini, promptly got pinned down for a week due to weather, then had several days of lousy, crappy, constant motoring into headwinds until we finally landed at Staniel Cay in the Exumas.
This year we decided to switch back to year one’s route, and we can definitely say it’s the only way we’ll do it from now on. Since arriving at Green Turtle it has been almost nothing but sailing. The angle is simply better with the prevailing winds, and as an added bonus there are more places to stop along the way.
After checking in, all we needed to do was answer a short, daily health questionnaire for two weeks and ensure we were somewhere on day five where we could get our follow-up Covid test. The immigration officer told us that our arrival day was actually day one (we had originally thought it was the day of check in). Since that was the case we only had two more days before our test. We could get tested at the local clinic, so we decided it made sense to simply hang around Green Turtle a bit longer.
We decided to treat ourselves and rented a golf cart for the afternoon so we could explore the cay more thoroughly than we had in the past. It was a lot of fun and we found a fantastic beach for our return visit in the spring. Green Turtle has made an enormous amount of progress since Dorian. In fact, with the exception of a handful of buildings in the settlement and scattered throughout the island, you wouldn’t have known it was devastated 15 months earlier.
Thursday was test day, but on Wednesday the weather finally settled down so we decided to check out of the marina. We have a saying on Pegu Club: sometimes you watch the show, sometimes you are the show. Well, we were the show getting out of the slip. It was much narrower than we were used to, and the dinghy got snagged between the boat and the piling. There’s a t-shirt you can buy that says, “I’m sorry for what I said when I was docking the boat.” That would have been a good shirt to have on Pegu Club. Number one. What does that mean? You shall soon find out, faithful reader. Continue reading “Don’t these things usually happen in threes?”→