A tale of two passages – part one.

We spent several days waiting out a weather system at our hidey hole by Green Turtle Cay before moving to Great Sale Cay where we would leave for our crossing back to the U.S.  We have spent approximately one week in this Green Turtle anchorage during our time in the Bahamas, and we really do love it.  We have had it to ourselves every time except for one night, and the protection is superb.  Turtles and rays come by every day and we discovered some nice snorkeling on this last stop.  However, it was time to go so we sadly waved goodbye until next time.

Why hello there!
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A beautiful sunset.

After many discussions over the past few months, Jeff and I agreed that we were ready to try a multi-night passage.  Up to now we had only done two single overnights.  We had the awful one down the New Jersey coast, and we had a mostly wind-free 20 hours when we crossed from Lake Worth to Great Sale Cay in early February.  We had gained a lot of confidence while sailing in all kinds of conditions in the Bahamas, so it was time to push our comfort zone a bit more.

We set up custom weather routing with Chris Parker who is well-known among cruisers for his forecasting.  Although we wouldn’t have cell service off shore and we only have an SSB receiver, he would be able to send detailed forecasts through our inReach device.  When a good weather window opened up, it was time to go.

Our hope was to go from Great Sale Cay to Georgetown, SC or even Beaufort, NC if the stars aligned, but we agreed that we wouldn’t hesitate to bail out early if we wanted to.  That proved to be a very good plan. 

We left Great Sale on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. and had good wind for sailing all day.  The wind angle was a bit different than forecasted so right away we weren’t going to be able to aim for one of Chris’ suggested waypoints, but we kept chugging along with Bob (our Monitor windvane) steering like a champ.  

Continue reading “A tale of two passages – part one.”

Back to the beginning at Green Turtle Cay.

Spanish Wells in Eleuthera was a charming stop, and a place where we would like to spend more time next season.  It had an abundance of colorful, cute houses which reminded us of a larger version of Hopetown, and there was an amazing shallow beach that seemed to stretch out forever at low tide. Spanish Wells also had a large grocery store where we were able to stock up on more snacks.  Note to self: bring more snacks next time!

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Nice view!
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Their parking space around the corner was labeled “Parking for Crazy Frank and Margaret Rose.” 

Continue reading “Back to the beginning at Green Turtle Cay.”

Farewell to the Exumas as we begin to head north in earnest.

Any place after Pipe Cay was going to pale in comparison, but we still enjoyed our stop in the Exumas Land and Sea Park. We spent a night anchored at Warderick Wells before moving on to Shroud Cay.  Everyone we spoke to who offered suggestions for Exumas stops said that we MUST see Shroud Cay, so how could we skip it?

We spent two nights in a very lovely anchorage where we were able to snorkle a few coral reefs (we saw lots of fish) and we also took our dinghy up the mangrove creek to the ocean side which was a lot of fun.

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We didn’t have any fish-sighting success while snorkeling in the creek, but we did see a shark swimming in the shallows on the ocean side and a turtle in the creek as we slowly motored along. The Land and Sea Park has so many snorkeling spots that we didn’t get to see, but the pesky calendar won’t slow down.  We’ll definitely come back next season, but for now we needed to take advantage of good weather to cross back to Eleuthera and keep heading north. Continue reading “Farewell to the Exumas as we begin to head north in earnest.”

Pipe Creek. How is is possible that the Exumas keep getting prettier?

A short sail away from Staniel Cay was Pipe Creek, an absolutely stunning spot which is now my favorite place in the Exumas. As far as beauty goes, it is the prettiest place we’ve seen so far, and that’s saying something. 

Pipe Creek runs between Pipe Cay and Little Pipe Cay, and at low tide the vast majority of the water is gone, leaving sand flats everywhere.  The water ranged from dark blue to turquoise, electric blue to clear.  

We spent several days here, simply not wanting to leave.  We watched kiteboarders (who love the shallow spots), a seaplane landed in front of us, and every time the tide went out we took the dinghy and played in the water, floating in the shallow areas, drifting along, and walking around the sand flats.  

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let these pictures (which honestly don’t do it justice) do the talking:

Continue reading “Pipe Creek. How is is possible that the Exumas keep getting prettier?”

Staniel Cay

 

Our next stop after Black Point was Staniel Cay, an easy, lazy 11 nautical miles up the Exumas.  With one of the few places to get diesel and water in the area, Staniel Cay was the busiest place we had been since leaving Georgetown and it was initially a little jarring.  I can only imagine how much starker the contrast will be when we return to the United States at the end of the month!  Boats ranging from regular to mega yachts went in and out of the harbor, and the anchorage was busy with dinghies of all types and sizes zooming back and forth.

Despite all of the activity, we really enjoyed Staniel Cay.  The water was crystal clear and had the most beautiful shades of blue that we had seen so far.  The pictures really couldn’t capture it.

Continue reading “Staniel Cay”

A return to Little Bay – and our first blowhole!

As you can probably tell, we are not dawdling quite as much as we typically do.  Even though it feels like we just got here, it’s actually been a few months and we need to start thinking about the timing for sailing back to Connecticut.  We would love to stay longer, but we also want to spend some time in Connecticut and in the Chesapeake as we go south again.  As Jeff pointed out, it took us so long to get down here that in order to get somewhat back on track, something was going to have to get cut short.

We decided that a maximum of three months in the Bahamas was going to have to suffice this time.  We’ll make up for it next season.  We need to get back to Connecticut by the end of June for doctor appointments, so as a result we’re skipping up the Exumas with an eye towards crossing back to the United States by the end of April.  However, we are definitely taking notes on where we’d like to spend more time when we return at the end of the year!

One repeat visit for us already on this trip was Little Bay on Great Guana Cay.  Looking at the forecast we were going to be getting some westerly winds in the mid-teens for half a day before the wind clocked to the northwest and around.  One thing that the Exumas lacks are an abundance of anchorages with westerly protection.  Little Bay was only 10 nautical miles away from Little Farmers Cay, and while it was open to the west, we could tuck in and get protection once the wind turned to the northwest.  Bonus points for it being a lovely anchorage and a 45 minute walk into Black Point, which is a settlement where we hoped to be able to pick up a few provisions.

We had a nice, lazy, jib-only sail of 12 nautical miles from Little Farmers to Little Bay.  Although the wind was supposed to be light, it started turning west and picking up speed as we approached Little Bay.  By the time we anchored we already had two to three foot swells in the anchorage.  Good times – not.  Tom and Anita from S/V Lone Star pulled in a few hours later and although we had planned to get together that evening we decided to postpone until the next day given the conditions.

As the evening progressed the wind started to shift, but the wave direction didn’t.  This put the waves on our beam with Pegu Club rolling side to side, side to side, around 20-30 degrees at a time.  It was an absolutely sleepless night for both of us.  I wanted to set a swell bridle but we had never done it before and Jeff didn’t want to set it up in the dark.  While in hindsight this was obviously the right decision, it didn’t make the night any easier.  Finally we both fell asleep around 4:00 a.m.  The rolling hadn’t stopped, but we were so tired it didn’t matter.

The next day Tom and Anita came over and cheered us on while we rigged up a swell bridle.  The relief from the swell was immediate, and we won’t hesitate to do that again in the future.  Tom, Anita, and I decided to walk into the settlement while Jeff opted to stay on the boat and rest, feeling especially tired from our sleepless night.  I was on a quest to buy some bread from Mama, who reportedly made the best bread in the Exumas.

Continue reading “A return to Little Bay – and our first blowhole!”

Rudder Cut Cay and Little Farmers Cay.

As we head north we are trying to sail on the shallower Exuma Banks side as much as we can so we can enjoy the beautiful colors of the water.  To get from Leaf Cay to Rudder Cut Cay we were going to need to go around the Pimlico Cays which have low water depths of under 4′ (which is less than our draft).  Additionally, the chart indicated that the sand shifted so it was possible it could be shallower.

After asking about it on a Facebook group we belong to, we were encouraged by our friends on S/V Duchess who had been through the area a few weeks earlier with a draft 2″ deeper than ours.  High tide was in our favor so we decided to go for it, and we were glad we did.  It was a nice route, and once again it boosted our confidence a bit.

Dropping the anchor at Rudder Cut Cay, we found to our delight that we had it all to ourselves.  That hasn’t happened since we left the Abacos.  We were a bit surprised because Rudder Cut Cay offered good protection from a strong front that was going to be passing through, but no one joined us until the day we left.  Works for us!

Rudder Cut Cay is a private island owned by David Copperfield.  While we weren’t allowed to walk on the beach, we were still able to enjoy one of the prettiest anchorages that we have seen on this trip.

Continue reading “Rudder Cut Cay and Little Farmers Cay.”

Iguanas!

Our first stop after leaving Georgetown was Lee Stocking Island.  After motoring out of Georgetown harbor, we enjoyed a lovely downwind sail to Rat Cay Cut.  We motored through the cut (better safe than sorry), but then switched off the engine again and sailed the rest of the way to the anchorage.

As we ghosted between cays and over shallows, I marveled at how much more confidence we’ve gained over the past seven months (wow – can’t believe it’s been that long already!).  It’s a little thing, but I’ve wanted to sail into Block Island’s Great Salt Pond for awhile.  We sailed in once with Little Bristol, but we had the outboard on (in neutral) just in case.  After this sail, I looked at Jeff and said there is absolutely no reason why we can’t sail into the Pond this summer.  We had just sailed between unfamiliar rock islands that are narrower than Block Island’s entrance.  We’ve had the skills for awhile – we just lacked the confidence.  Now we KNOW we can do it.

On our way to Lee Stocking Island:

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Dropping the anchor at Lee Stocking Island, we were joined several hours later by our friends from S/V Lone Star and their guests.  Over the next few days we enjoyed nightly card games on Lone Star, floating on our noodles in the beautiful water, and exploring the abandoned facilities on the island.

Lee Stocking Island was the home of the Caribbean Marine Research Center which was one of six National Undersea Research Centers affiliated with NOAA.  The facility was one of the most productive marine laboratories in the world until it closed due to funding cuts in 2012.  All of the research buildings and residences remain, along with an airstrip, slowly being reclaimed by nature.  It was eerie walking around in what was essentially a tiny abandoned village.

Continue reading “Iguanas!”

Rock Sound and Georgetown

When we decided once and for all to go to the Exumas, we determined that our strategy would be to get to Georgetown quickly and then explore as we slowly worked our way north.  We are thinking that for our return visit this fall we will start in the Exumas, so we wanted to see if Georgetown would be a viable base for us in the winter months.  But before we could get to Georgetown, we needed to wait out some weather in Rock Sound, Eleuthera.

Rock Sound proved to be a nice place to spend several days.  The harbor was large with great protection and holding, perfect for riding out several days of winds in the mid-20’s.  Our friends Jay and Tanya from S/V Minx were also in the anchorage so we were able to hang out several times with them (we had last seen them in Vero Beach) which was a lot of fun.  There is a blue hole in the middle of the settlement that we checked out (our first one), and we joined a group of cruisers for lunch at Sammy’s which had good food for a VERY reasonable price.

I have been charmed by the homemade signs all over the Bahamas pointing the way to various attractions.

 

Continue reading “Rock Sound and Georgetown”

We’ve finally decided to head farther south.

We’ve had such a nice time in the Abacos that we repeatedly asked ourselves whether we wanted to stay for the remainder of our time here or move farther south to the Exumas.  On the one hand, we’ve covered a lot of miles over the past six months and it would be nice to stay in one area for a few months.  On the other hand, while Jeff continues to do well, we can’t just assume that we’ll be able to come back again in the fall, so perhaps we shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Exumas.  If we went to the Exumas we could finally see our friends on S/V Lone Star, and deliver the chocolate, almond milk, and whey powder that we picked up for them in Lake Worth.  But if we stayed we would see them as they passed through the Abacos.

Back and forth, back and forth.  We literally would change our mind a few times a day.  Every time we decided to stay, we would think that maybe we should go.  When we decided to go, we thought it was lovely here so why don’t we stay?  Finally I decided to put our dilemma on the Facebook Bahamas Cruising group.  The responses were overwhelmingly in favor of going to the Exumas.  With the decision made, it was time to start making some tracks south.

Continue reading “We’ve finally decided to head farther south.”