Onward’s Cruise Journal 2011
Cruise in the Bahamas
1 Mar 11; Tuesday; George Town
- Wow, a new month! Time does fly while cruising in the Bahamas. I developed a new theory about this yesterday: While living winters on the cold East Coast, Februarys were remarkable for having the fewest number of days of all the months yet seemed to last forever -- much longer than the months with more days. My new theory is that Februarys in the Bahamas fly by thus offsetting and balancing the effect of seeming longer on the East Coast. How 'bout that?
- I made an early morning trip into town to get water and then worked on improving the dinghy spray shield. We then headed off to join the dinghy parade. Our distinctive decoration for Venture was to have no decoration (other than Melanie, which was quite enough). It was impressive to see the creativity of so many of the cruisers.
- After a tour around the harbor or rather "harbour" in the parade, we headed back to Volleyball Beach for the start of the Dinghy Poker Run. We were given our first stop, Alvin's Sand Bar on Hamburger Beach. Given the long runs it looked like we were going to have in the Run, I decided to go back to Onward to get the jerrican of gas as backup. When we got back to Onward, Melanie wan't feeling that well so she stayed aboard while I made the first run to Alvin's. This was formerly known as the Peace & Plenty Beach Bar and Alvin drove the water taxi from the Peace & Plenty Resort across the harbor. I had a couple of beers and some great spicy chips and salsa, picked up a King and started back. I called Melanie who was now feeling better so I put back to Onward to pick her up before we made off to the second stop, Orange Bikini Bottom Snack Bar next to Exuma Market in Lake Victoria. Here Melanie drew a nine while I filled Venture's fuel tank. We were then off across Elizabeth Harbour to St. Francis Resort where I drew a nine. Then it was back across the Harbour to Palm Bay Resort just N of George Town. This is a really nice place that I had never visited before and worth coming back to. They provided free conch fritters and $3 rum punches so we stayed for a bit. Here I drew a 7 - not much help - before we headed back to our last stop at Eddie's Edgewater in Lake Victoria where Melanie drew another nine! With a full hand we headed back to Chat & Chill on Volleyball Beach with the banana bread desert I'd purchased in the morning. I was beat from all the time I spent in the dinghy bouncing around and I proceeded to take a nap in a beachchair. Melanie was a ministering angel and brought me a cold beer and a delicious grilled chicken breast for dinner. When the winners began to be announced, starting with the 5th place winner, I began to realize our 3-nines with a King kicker was going to be a good hand. Then I realized we were the winners! The prize: $125! Neat. Unfortunately, the friend I'd asked to take a photo of us receiving the prize only managed to get a photo of her foot. After a bit more socializing it was back to Onward where ibuprofen awaited my sore body.
2 Mar 11; Wednesday
- The wind was absolutely still overnight and we awoke to a mill pond. I took advantage for the great flat traveling conditions to Venture over to Lake Victoria to fill water jugs. There were no other boats at the dinghy dock RO water spigot so I was able to fill up right away. I noticed that the larger diameter of the two hoses was torn and unusable so I decided to get tools to fix it on my return trip. Back at Onward, I offloaded the water into the tanks and then decided to just donate my spare 25' hose to the water point. When I got back to Lake Victoria, there was a boat filling containers from the one good hose and two others in line. I proceeded to take off the torn hose, hook up the hose I donated, and then washed off its exterior. By this time, I was next in line to fill my jugs and as I proceeded to do so with the new hose, the guy who was using the old hose complained because his flow rate went down. I explained to him that the overall flow rate for the two hoses was significantly larger than that from just the one smaller diameter hose he was using. He still grumbled so I said, OK, I'll wait until you're done. When he departed, I began to use the new hose and the next guy in line began to use the smaller hose. Then, a French-speaking guy in a dinghy who just pulled up began to berate me for using two hoses declaiming "we been doin with one hose for 25 years and we don't need two hoses" he then followed this up with "you wait and see and after tonight it will be gone". I looked at him dumbfounded. When I finished my filling job, I said to this guy that I wasn't the person who installed two hoses but that I'd just donated a new hose to replace the leaking one. He then repeated his belligerent statement.
- I made a third water trip and as I pulled up to the water point, I found a line of cruisers happily using both hoses to fill their containers. After filling my jugs, I went into Exuma Market to pick up some items. I stopped by the office to check if Melanie's package had arrived and the manager was there so I took the opportunity to thank him for their efforts to support cruisers. I then told him I'd replaced the damaged hose and he thanked me. I also related the interaction with the disgruntled guy and he just rolled his eyes and shook his head; he has apparently had to put up with a lot of such nonsense for doing the community a service.
- Melanie had gone off earlier with Deb to snorkel the S end of Stocking I. I got to make a 4th trip to Lake Victoria to retrieve my Tillie hat that I'd lost Monday between the checkout counter at Exuma Market and the dinghy dock. It had taken a rather circuitous route around the anchorage and then back to Exuma Market where I picked it up.
- As I returned from my hat fetching trip, Bob was kayaking by and invited me over to Ancient Mariner for a beer. Just as the rain squalls approached, I saw Melanie return to Onward so I took my leave in time to get drenched. Once back aboard Onward, I took advantage of the downpour; I grabbed the deck brush and cleaned the decks and then brushed the salt off the hull. I also got to wash the clothes I had on in fresh water.
- The wind increased and the temperature dropped as the time for the social night on Volleyball Beach approached. The rain squall hung around and this held back many cruises from going ashore. Reports of lots of free rum drinks lacking drinkers, lots of free food, and the end of the rain brought out the fleet. Melanie was not feeling well so I went in alone and managed to eat the free meals for both of us.
3 Mar 11; Thursday
- I baked a calzone, a flatbread, and a batch of pepper biscotti before the days events began. The winds held at ENE @ ~20 kts causing Laureen and Melanie both opted out of the Coconut Harvest competition so I Ventured in to watch the fun. Before lunch, I returned to Onward to sample the calzone and flatbread.
- It was time to climb down in the starboard stern locker to check out the connection of the SSB ground strap to the ground plate terminal. I found a bit of corrosion around the strap and terminal so I cleaned and improved the connection. Melanie got a kick out of seeing me immersed in the bowels of the locker. When I do this, it is another job, like changing the engine oil, where it is best to do it wearing my skin suit so I don't get immobilized by clothing catching on the many protrusions in the locker. I took the opportunity to install some nylon strapping to keep the bins that hold my engine oil stores from moving around. I later discovered that I'd managed to give myself some really good bruises in the entrance - exit process. I was able to do a radio check with Tom on Polar Pacer who was near by and he said there was a very slight, if any improvement. What next?
- I have a habit when I'm ashore of always looking out at any anchorage where Onward is to check that it is where I left it. In an anchorage with just a few boats, Onward's profile is distinctive and I easily find it. However, in busy anchorages, the number of white sailboats with blue canvas makes this a challenge, and I often get apprehensive when I can't locate it. Last year, Harriet Hardy made me a ship's burgee with the Onward logo on it. I tried using this to help me find Onward but it isn't large enough to pick out at long distances. A couple of days ago, I saw another boat that had a long pennant flying from its masthead so I decided to make one. I took the red, blue, and white ripstop nylon I carry, cut 6" wide x ~36" strips; sewed them along their length into tubes, then turned these inside out, inserted a 10' length of 2" wide nylon strapping inside, and then sewed the ripstop tubes over the strap. After putting SS eyelets in to hoist it, I was in a hurry to test it out by hauling it up with the genoa 2 halyard. I was so focused on trying to keep it from fouling on the spreaders in the 20-kt wind, I neglected to hold the downhaul line tightly. It whipped out of my hand and went flying in the wind along with the pennant at the masthead. At that point, I needed to get my equanimity back so I decided to take a nap.
- I was stirred by a voice calling Onward. Melanie when out to see who was calling and found a guy in his dinghy who was returning my Tillie hat that he had just retrieved from floating in the harbor. It seems the wind had whipped it off the cockpit table and over the side when I wasn't looking. This was the 3rd walkabout for this hat in as many days!
4 Mar 11; Friday
- Judie and Carl from Southern Cross gave me a recipe for English muffins the other day and this morning I decided to make a batch as an experiment. So I whipped up a batch of dough, rolled and formed it into muffin shapes, and laid them out on a silicon baking sheet to rise before cooking on the stove top.
- In late morning, I packed a picnic lunch and Melanie and I Ventured off to hike to the Monument on Stocking Island and then along the beach. Once ashore, it was an easy hike along broad trails and then just a bit of a climb up a steep slope to the top of Monument Hill. I have been to the Stocking Island / Elizabeth Harbour area several times before in 2008 and 2009, but I had always been busy with other things and never got around to hiking and exploring Stocking Island. The view from the top was spectacular and worth the climb. After the usual effort of trying to pick out Onward's mast from the forest to the S, we headed down to the E, Sound, side of Stocking Island. I had never seen this side of the cay because the entrances to Elizabeth Harbour are well N or well S of it so it had not been visible from the boat. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the E shore is one long sandy beach. We had a pleasant hike N and then back to the W side where I had a nice cold beer at Alvin's Sand Bar to go with my picnic lunch of calzone. We then Ventured back to Onward and as we got within about 150' of her, Melanie let her guard down and was rewarded with a face full of sea water kicked up by the 20+ kt winds.
- I packed my laptop and left Melanie aboard to dry out while I headed off to visit Southern Cross for a bit and then go to the St. Francis Resort to access wifi. I returned in time for a quick shower before heading off to Ariel for dinner. The cocktail hour was highlighted by a conch horn serenade by Miles, Laureen, and Melanie on Ariel's 3 conch horns. I sat by and observed the contest to see who could get the best sound blowing the largest of the 3, a really huge conch. The women won and there was some talk about having t-shirts made with the slogan: "I Blew the Big One".
- We enjoyed good company, good wine, and a fantastic shrimp curry. Delish! After all this, we somehow made it back to Onward.
5 Mar 11; Saturday;
- I couldn't put it off any longer so it was into the port stern locker to check out the connections to the AT-140 antenna tuner. I had made this the last step in the trouble shooting of the SSB transmission problem because I expected this to be the least-likely source of the problem. When I unpacked the locker to get access, I took a quick look at the antenna tuner and was astonished to see that the GTO cable was not attached to the output terminal at the top! This obviously explained the problem with getting transmission power out of the antenna! What was amazing is that my SSB reception had been good and that I was able to get any transmission power out at all. The wire in the connector lug had corroded and failed. A clean section of wire, a new crimp lug, a cable holder to take the strain, and waterproof tape over all connectors completed the repair. I was able to do a quick radio check and there was substantial improvement this time. Hooray! I had been rather apprehensive about leaving George Town to go further S without a working SSB system.
6 Mar 11; Sunday;
- We met Laureen and Miles at the picnic table on Sand Dollar Beach and then went hiking to the beach on the E shore of Stocking Island. This beach is fantastic; wide and sandy and stretching N for > 1 nm to where we had crossed over from Alvin's Sand Bar the other day. We met Bob & Sharon from Shazza. Bob wanted to know something about the geology of the Bahamas and I filled him in based on my reading. He has become a student of stromatolites and filled me in on this topic. All in all we had a fine technical chat as we walked the beach.
7 Mar 11; Monday;
- The winds were down and we took advantage of the conditions to travel in to get water, groceries, and run errands. One of my disappointments about George Town is that none of the three liquor stores carries Goslings Black Seal dark rum. I may just have to put in a collapsable tank and fill it with Goslings before leaving the US.
- On return, Melanie went off with Deb to snorkel and I went in to root for Bob who was an entrant in the single kayak races. He did well and finished 3rd. While watching the festivities, I got to finally try out one of the Hobie pedal kayaks and an inflatable model at that. I was impressed with the performance of the "flippers" that are actuated by the pedals; they can really move the kayak. I had observed the woman who let me try the kayak be very competitive with a paddle kayak with great speed but less ability to turn sharply around rase course marks than the paddle kayak. They really give a good workout to the legs and if one also uses the paddle I can see it providing a full body workout. I was also impressed with the rigidity of the inflatable. I may have to reconsider a purchase of one.
- Miles came over and managed the winch so I could go up the mast to retrieve the errant downhaul line for my new pennant. That done, I spent the rest of the afternoon doing some sewing repairs to the port side enclosure panel zippers and readying Onward to head S in the morning. We took a break from this to go ashore to Chat & Chill to watch Bob get his award - a George Town Regatta racing burgee.
8 Mar 11; Tuesday; George Town to Thompson Bay, Long Island
- Onward weighed anchor and was underway S at 0800 accompanied by Miles and Laureen on Ariel. Ancient Mariner with Bob and Deb were also headed S to the Jumentos but with their minimal draft could take the Hog Cay Cut while we needed to go through the Comer Channel. It was a beautiful day with E winds at ~10-15 kts that required us to motorsail due to the poor wind angle. On the way S along the shore of Little Exuma, I realized we were only ~ 1 nm off shore of Santana's beach restaurant. I was tempted to anchor and go in for lunch but it was only 1000.
- We anchored in Thompson Bay at 1400 and I immediately felt the need for a nap. After 20 min I was awoken by Melanie who needed the dinghy down so she could go for a swim. In the process of doing this while still half asleep, I managed to let go of the stern dinghy falls and the resulting "launch" was spectacular - but no damage was done except to my ego.
- We found Bonnie Lass anchored just ahead of us and I invited Valerie and Graham to dinner along with Miles and Laureen. A great time was had by all over grilled steaks and brussels sprouts - and of course, don't forget the wine.
9 Mar 11; Wednesday; Thompson Bay to Flamingo Cay, Jumentos
- We weighed anchor at 0800 and headed NE t o the Comer Channel so as to hit it on a rising tide. One of the problems with this shallow route is trying to figure out what the tide state is in the channel. The two closest tide stations available on my chartplotter are about 2 hrs different. Due to the underwater terrain, the tide flow in the area is "complex". In consulting my ship's log for this transit I learned that Onward had last made this trip exactly 2 years ago to the day! Near the shallow point in the channel, we were passed by Island Link, a catamaran ferry. Seeing this large ship headed our way, I felt more confident with the timing of Onward's passage. I contacted the ship and asked what tide station they used for reference when planning their transit. They did not quite grasp this question and so I didn't get a useful answer except that the cat had a shallow enough draft that they didn't need to consider the tide! Ah well... The transit was uneventful and Onward saw a minimum of 7' at the shallowest point of the transit. We headed down the Banks side to Water Cay and then further S to Flamingo Cay where I anchored in the same northern little bay where I spent the night in 2009.
- Along the trip down the island chain, Melanie decided to test out her new fishing gear as we transited some of the areas with depths > 30' and gaps between the small cays. In George Town she had bought a ballyhoo lure that looked to me like it was aimed at catching a whale. As we crossed one of the gaps, something huge hit. I wasn't sure what was going on so I wasn't able to slow Onward down. This probably would not have done much because the fish overcame the maximum drag of the reel and in less than a minute pulled all the line off the reel. Besides the loss of gear, Melanie got a serious burn from having her left thumb on the reel when the fish hit. She briefly saw what she believed to be a moderate size billfish break the water just before the line ran out. Thus ended the fishing saga until new line and lures are purchased.
- We had a delightful dinner aboard Ariel of baked ziti with three different cheeses. This was followed by a game of Farkle in which our "trainee", Laureen, beat us all.
10 Mar 11; Thursday; Flamingo Cay to Raccoon Cay, Jumentos
- There was a lot of static crashes on SSB 4045 due to a large storm system near FL, so I needed the help of a relay to talk to Chris Parker about how severe the cold front passage was going to be in the Jumentos. The good news was that there was going to be almost no W component winds associated with this front.
- Overnight, Laureen and Miles became a bit concerned with going further S today. As Ariel does not have an SSB, I rebroadcast Chris's forecast on VHF 88A to them. I told them that given the weather forecast, I expected Onward to find great protection from the N to NE winds of the front in the southernmost cove on Raccoon Cay. After a bit of reconsideration they decided to join Onward for the trip S. We weighed anchor at about 0830 and were able to sail on a beam to close reach all the way S to Buena Vista Cay where the winds diminished.
- Along the way S, we were passed by two north-bound sailboats and I chatted one up. I hadn't seen or heard any other cruisers since we passed Water Cay so I queried them about other cruises in the area and they related that there were about 8 other vessels at Hog Cay. We found Raccoon Cay empty with only another cruiser putting in to Spanish Well Bay from the S as we approached. The little cove I had selected to give us some protection from 330º to 180º was empty and we were soon at anchor at 1400.
- After getting Onward settled, we launched Venture and headed in for a beach session. We had a nice sun on the secluded beach and then snorkeled around the shallow coral heads. Later, the Ariels joined us for dinner and I grilled chicken beasts that were marinated in the sour orange mix I found in George Town. Delish.
11 Mar 11; Friday;
- In late morning we took the dinghies around to the S end of the island and explored some of the E facing beaches. As the Jumentos are not visited by many cruisers, we were rewarded by a good harvest of sea beans. We had an impromptu picnic lunch on one of the S beaches. After lunch, while walking a small section of seldom-visited beach, I found a Hamburger Bean - the grail I have been searching for since I first came to the Bahamas in 2007. I had been seeking two of these to make into a piece of jewelry for each of my daughters. A friend had given me one a couple of years ago and I have been seeking one "on my own" since then. My quest for these scarce and elusive beans had once caused me to wax poetic:
The ever elusive Hamburger Bean.
- I have been promising myself that once I found my Hamburger Bean I would cease searching the beach wrack for beans and just enjoy the physical beauty vice the junk.
- Now that my bean quest was complete and Laureen, too, found one within seconds of my discovery, we headed to the N end of the W side of the cay where we found a small sandy spot to beach the dinghies. We then hiked a trail to the E side of the cay where we found the typical Bahamian geography of the E / ocean side of most cays: extremely rough limestone shores with no sandy coves. After finding a few more sea beans we headed back to the boats. There we watched the tail end of the cold front approach and the winds rise to 10-15 kts from the NNW. We decided to have a quite night aboard our individual vessels.
- Once aboard, I tried to find the Hamburger Bean I'd gotten on one of my earlier cruises and discovered that it was lost somewhere in the bowels of Onward. So, my quest for a bean to make a piece of jewelry for each of my daughters is still unmet - back to the search!
12 Mar 11; Saturday;
- The winds had shifted from about 340º to 360º during the night the swell from the NW continued to make the anchorage a bit rolly.
- In mid-morning I went over to Ariel and helped Miles in his first Yamaha outboard carburetor cleaning in an attempt to correct its stalling at low rpm. The most challenging part was taking the carb off in the bouncing dinghy. We then decamped to the cockpit table and began the process. I got to try out the set of carburetor cleaning wires that I had picked up from Bonnie Lass. They are a nice set of graduated wires that vary in diameter from smaller than the strand of copper wire from an 00 cable that I had used in the past to several sizes larger. The straight SS wires have a smooth section and then a section with transverse striations. Miles' carburetor looked fairly clean with no substantial glop deposits like those I'd found in mine in the past (a product of EtOH in the fuel). I did use my new jet cleaners and they worked well. When we got the engine reassembled we were pleased to find it ran much better at low rpm.
- We packed a picnic lunch and with the Ariels headed to the beach where we found a shady spot to camp out. Maureen had not had a comfortable night due to the swell and really needed to be off the boat. We had a nice picnic and then set about enjoying the shore. I built a fire pit and then burnt the paper trash from Onward and Ariel. I took this as an opportunity to police up and burn the various pieces of plastic that had washed ashore.
- I read for a while then hiked down to the little point at the N end of our little cove to photograph the ruins there. These are the remains of a small bus substantial one-room building that apparently had been used by the salt rakers who operated the salt pans to be fouind just beyond the shore.
- I decided the small sand spit that goes out to the small cay would make a good CFZ for a swim and I had waded out to the NW end only to find that side of the sandbar had been staked out by a 5' ray. I decided to not contest usage and waded back to the SE side of the bar for a nice dip in water that was warmed by the sun as it flowed over the shallow bar. Meanwhile, Melanie was snorkeling in the same general area and found the remains of a wrecked wooden sloop hull as well as a nudibranch "swimming" in some coral. I took a stroll through the interior of the island to dry off in the sun and cooling NNE wind before heading back to our picnic spot for a nap.
- To give Laureen a break, I made pizzas for dinner that we enjoyed over a couple of bottles of wine. We later watched a movie.
13 Mar 11; Sunday;
- The wind dropped well below 10 kts overnight and the sea became a mill pond. I was up at 0545 and remarked to myself how good it was to see pre-dawn when I awoke -- then I remembered today was the beginning of daylight savings time and it would be back to arising in the dark when I corrected the clocks. I prepared a calzone with spinach, garlic, provolone and pepperoni and a sheet of focaccia. While preparing the calzone, I discovered the large package of frozen uncooked breaded chicken cutlets had become frozen into a ball as I had forgotten to repackage the cutlets into smaller vacuum bags. So I ended up thawing it enough to be able to bake the cutlets.
- After the 5-hour cooking spree, Melanie and I Ventured off to explore a couple of the small beach coves we'd seen on the SW corner of the island. We found a beautiful small and very peaceful cove, declared it a CFZ, and went ashore. I gave Venture a good scrubbing on the interior and then we went for a walk across what turned out to be a small isthmus to one of the SE facing beaches we had visited the other day. On the way back I managed to flush out two she goats with their kids whom we'd heard before. We then went for a long snorkeling exploration of the cove where I saw the first blue coral I have seen in the Bahamas. It had a light grayish blue color on the body of the cylindrical arms and an almost sky blue on the ends. We also encountered a trumpet fish and a needle fish. In one area I saw a grass reef in about 20' of water. Here dense grass stalks had apparently collected sand around them as they continued to grow vertically creating a reef that was some 4 to 6' above the sandy bottom with very sharply defined edges where the long roots of the grass could be seen. After a stroll around the land to dry off and a short nap in the sun we headed back to Onward. Later we joined the Ariels for dinner and Laureen proceeded to win another game of Farkle - she is now 2 for 2.
14 Mar 11; Monday; Raccoon Cay to Buena Vista Cay
- We began our retrograde N at 0900 and sailed the short distance to Buena Vista Cay under genoa alone. After anchoring, we packed a picnic lunch and met the Ariels ashore. We found a shady area under some palms to eat and then we took a long walk N. We followed a short trail E inland to the base of an escarpment where we got to look at a couple of caves that were just deep enough to provide shelter from the rain. We went back to the shore and then N again to where there are ruins of a house built out of beach rock and mortar that had two large cisterns and an extensive surrounding wall system. Nearby, a later day settler had begun building a structure out of wood and there was substantial goods from someone who had been living rather rough there some time last fall. However the structure now looked abandoned.
- Laureen and Miles decided to take a nap in the shade while Melanie and I Ventured S around the tip of the island to explore a couple of E facing beaches there. We went ashore on the first section of seldom-visited beach. Ureka! Hamburger Bean Heaven! Within minutes Melanie had found a Hamburger Bean. I asked for her help to find the magic second bean I was seeking and she soon spotted another and graciously allowed me to pick it up. That opened the flood gates and I soon found 4 more on my own and Melanie found a total of 3! We returned to Onward for a quiet night aboard.
15 Mar 11; Tuesday; Buenavista Cay to Water Cay
- We were underway at 0800 moving N to stage for the transit back through the Comer Channel on Wednesday before winds picked up too much from the E-NE to comfortable. We motorsailed with winds E @ 15 to Flamingo Cay where the winds came on the nose as we turned NNE. I anchored in the S anchorage at Water Cay just offshore of some tall bluffs and we went ashore for a walk. Just N of where Onward was anchored, the cay is almost split in two with only a low shelf of rock that is dry below high tide that connects the N and S halves. There is actually a narrow "creek" - a slight depression which allows water to flow between E and W sides when the tide is up. In spite of the remoteness, the beach had been well gleaned and there were no hamburger beans to be found.
- As we were having cocktails with the Ariels before sundown, we heard some of the fishermen who work the Jumentos talking on Ch-16. I asked if they were willing to trade fish for beer and got a positive response. Soon Miguel showed up in one of their working skiffs with some Mahi filets and a whole-skinned reef fish which he was happy to trade for a sixpack of Heinekin. This is the first time I've tried to trade for fish and based on the positive results, it won't be the last. Miguel didn't have any lobster but said he might be able to bring us some before we weighed anchor at mid day tomorrow. I decided to make peppercorn beef tenderloins on the grill for dinner and Ariel contributed some browned new potatoes. Delish!
- We enjoyed a great meal and then played Farkle. Miles managed to break Laureen's string of wins and then in the second game the dice ran hot for the captain and I walked away with the game -- finally!
16 Mar 11; Wednesday; Water Cay to Thompson Bay, Long Island
- The morning was overcast and a bit cooler which put paid to our thoughts of doing a bit of snorkeling before we departed N. One of the concern's I've had about transiting the Comer Channel back to Long Island is the lack of good tidal reference data for the area as it is necessary to have about mid tide and rising to transit the shoal area in the center. The best data says the tide at Comer is 1.5 to 2 hrs after that in Nassau. I've tried finding a tide station on my Raymarine E120 that is closer for reference and the one that I have used before is for the mid E coast of Long Island. In any case, talking about this with Miles, he mentioned the tide "bible" - a book I recall being the definitive book on tides which I have not had a chance to get and read. Then I remembered the college text I found on the hydrology of coasts and beaches. I found this and it had a great chapter on tides so I spent the lazy morning reading it.
- We weighed anchor at 1130 to head N. The wind resulted in an apparent wind of about 45º at 20 kts apparent so we motorsailed under genoa on a close stbd reach. The swells and close wind angle made for a bouncy ride. At times it was possible to sail under the genoa alone but then the wind shifted more N and the strong cross current made it difficult for the autopilot to keep Onward on the route centerline without heading up too much so it was necessary to run the engine just to easily stay on the route. The transit was planned to reach the mid waypoint of the Comer at mid rising tide and we had an uneventful trip with a minimum of 7.3' seen along the way. At the mid waypoint, we were passed by another sailboat heading S. It was apparently their first transit of the Comer and we were able to tell them they would have good water for the balance of their transit.
- We anchored at Thompson Bay just before sunset. Along the way in we discovered that Polar Pacer was also there. As we anchored we were greeted by Adanaco and Grateful Attitudes on the VHF so it looked to be a reunion of sorts. The building NE - E winds forecast for the next several days should give us plenty of time to see Long Island and our cruising friends. Once the anchor was down, I couldn't wait to have my Onward toddy and relax. Although there wasn't a lot for me to do but supervise the autopilot, my body felt beat due to the constant physical movement necessary to stay stable in the sea motions.
17 Mar 11; Thursday; Thompson Bay
- Island Breeze Resort now takes time slot reservations to do laundry so we signed up for 1100 after Ariel at 1030. The resort now has a much improved floating dinghy dock. The government dock adjacent has been rebuilt and is now a beautiful concrete structure with a sloping forward section to accommodate the RORO ships and mailboats. Unfortunately they did not put in any means for cruisers to land or tie off their dinghies at this pier. The Resort looked great and they have made improvements since I was last here in 2009. Mike and his partner let the Ariels and us use all the washing machines -- even removing the resort's laundry to let us use the large commercial machine. We then sat around and used their great internet to catch up with the world. I spent some time talking with Mike about the resort so I could update the BCG entries. One interesting thing is that the government has never provided the water connection they promised him when he made plans to build the resort and he is required to truck in water when the RO plant' has a surplus and store it in on-site tanks.
- I had a philly cheesesteak sub for lunch. Delish! We then went across the street to shop at Harding's grocery store / hardware store where I was able to find muriatic acid to treat the LectraSan.
- We had the Ariels and the Polar Pacers over for dinner. Melanie prepared the Mahi we had traded for in the Jumentos and Luarueen brought her ginger noodles. Delish.
18 Mar 11; Friday
- We were off at 0800 to pick up a rental car at Ocean Breeze and then we headed S to begin exploring Long I. Deans Blue Hole, at 662' the deepest in the world, was beautifully clear and we took neat photos from the cliffs surround it. The wind was still ~15+ kts from the E and while sunny it was a bit too cool to go swimming.
- We went on to visit Clarence Town to take photos and then headed back N where we did some shopping along the way. Near the Flying Fish Marina, I was pleased to see the nice home that in 2009 I'd found half constructed and looking derelict was now just about finished with a commanding view of the harbor entrance.
- We drove to the N end of the island and stopped for a delightful lunch of cracked lobster at a new beachside restaurant and bar which is part of a small resort complex being built by a father and son from Toronto. Both are tugboat captains and they own a yard back in Canada where they build and service tugs. They have been coming to the Bahamas for 33 and 24 years respectively for father and son having initially come with their tugs as part of a road building program. It is amazing what a little vision, drive, and attention to detail can do.
- At the NW end, we gave up on visiting the Columbus Monument because the rough road had not been further improved in two years. Instead we visited the end of the paved road and walked out onto the cay that forms the N tip of Long Island. Here roads have been bulldozed through the scrub and sand in what looks to be a prelude to development of a very beautiful area.
- We then moved back to visit Stella Maris Resort where I found a CD of Bahamian music in the resort's gift shop: KB's Bahamian Hits #3, that has the song about "toters" that we first heard at Black Point. This song is about the practice of some Bahamian party goers to tote off the food when they leave sometimes depleting the stock before the end of the party. We then walked down to the pool & beach bar where we found Sue the bartender pleased to have some customers. We had a delightful time with her as she made a frozen daiquiris and margarita for us. This is a delightful resort with an old-world flavor the central part of a development started by a German expat after WW II with a hotel, airstrip, and many separate homes that are for rent. Only a small part of the property has been developed however. Boaters who use the associated marina on the Sound can use the resort facilities also and there is a shuttle bus between them.
- We stopped at the Stella Maris Marina to check out whether Onward and Ariel might be able to get in. The answer was yes but only close to high tide when there has not been a prolonged wind from the E (as currently) which drives the water out of the channel and marina basin. Under optimal conditions two boats of our size could come in.
- As we returned to Salt Ponds, we stopped by Thompson Bay Club for their happy hour. There I got to meet Tryphene, the proprietress. We had a grand time enjoying rum punches, complementary conch fritters, and then stayed around for a Bahamian food buffet. I brought in my iPad to take advantage of the wifi and spent a lot of time putting it through its paces for many of the cruisers. It was a lot of fun -- helped along by the rum punches of course.
- We brought the rental car back to Ocean Breeze where I discovered that I had neglected to bring any flashlight with me when I packed by backpack for the day. The fact that I'd just refilled the gas tank and now needed to put oil in it was a challenge. Luckily there was a full moon to light the way and we were soon safely back aboard Onward where my back enjoyed being able to lie flat after a day of bouncing around in dinghies and the backseat of a car.
19 Mar 11; Saturday
- Today was a bad camera day. After getting up and making coffee, I happened to see my Optio digital camera and I remembered that the battery needed a good charge so I would be able to capture the afternoon's festivities. I later decided to download the photos I'd taken over the last several days -- only to find that they were gone! It appeared that somehow the file directory on the 2 GB SD card had been erased. This was a frustrating mystery as it had been working fine for the last photo I took at the end of the day yesterday and I had not touched it since. I attempted to use my photo recovery program but it was not working well.
- About 1030 we Ventured ashore to Island Breeze Resort to use the internet and have lunch. I made another attempt to recover my "lost" photo files with minimal success. Then I found out that my backup 2 GB SD card was defective and could not be formatted so I was left with just the internal memory in the camera to use for the day.
- Today was the Long Island Police "Steak Out" -- an afternoon fest sponsored by the police force for local families and visitors. A cookout fund raiser featuring steaks, chicken or ribs plus sides for $10 a meal was a major part. However, the highlight of the day was the Royal Bahamas Police Marching Band from Nassau. This group in their blue slacks and crisp white tunics with white helmets and red and leopard-skin trimming was spectacular to see and a delight to watch perform as they marched in intricate patterns and executed complex drum solos where the drumsticks were rotated between four drummers with each beat. Unfortunately we had just gotten near the head of the long food line as the band made its appearance. With good team work, we spelled each other so all got to see a good part of the performance. When we finally got to the head of the line the barbecued chicken was gone so we were forced to have the steaks -- a good choice as they were delicious.
- After completing their marching exhibition, the band then transformed into a combo playing Bahamian music with a vocal soloist who really knew how to work the crowd while throwing in amazing dance performances.
20 Mar 11; Sunday
- It dawned an overcast day. I spent the morning doing a much needed acid treatment of the LectraSan to remove CaCO3 buildup. A book I picked up somewhere, The 47th Samurai, had captured me so I spent a pleasant morning reading.
- Just before 1400 we Ventured ashore, met the Ariels at Island Breeze, and then walked to the Church of God. Here they were having an interdenominational service for the Royal Bahamian Police. We enjoyed the music and were treated to a long sermon by Rev Fox, the church pastor, who is an evangelical preacher. He took the government, other religious leaders, and the people of the Bahamas to task for not coming to terms with problems such as the prevalent practice of men having children with several women without taking responsibility for them.
- We finished up the day with a delicious meal aboard Ariel followed by two games of Farkle. I somehow won them both in spited of the fact that I was ready to fall asleep during the last game.
- The Venturing back and forth between Onward and Ariel served to underline the need to use the canvas spray shield when the wind is over 10 kts near the beam as Venture seems to like to throw up spray as soon as she gets within 2 lengths of the stern under these conditions. No strategy I've tried seems to be effective to prevent this.
21 Mar 11; Monday
- In spite of a bright full moon, it was dark when I got up at 0530 due to a band of dark clouds to the N of us. Chris Parker confirmed a frontal trough with a substantial squall line was headed our way and it arrived with > 25 kt winds and rain at 0800. The good news: Onward got a thorough free fresh water wash down -- however the Captain did not go on deck to work the deck brush -- too cold; in fact, a rare occurrence: the Captain went back to bed.
- The rain was followed by winds NE at ~25 kts for most of the day. The good news: the wind generator topped off the batteries nicely. The day was spent napping, reading, playing games, watching movies, etc. while the wind howled but the boat rode quietly at anchor. A laid-back day.
22 Mar 11; Tuesday; Thompson Bay to George Town, Elizabeth Harbour, Great Exuma
- We made a foray ashore to do some shopping and we visited a couple of stores that we had not been to: KC2 Tools which has a great selection of tools; Hillside Grocery which has an very wide selection.
- Shopping done, I weighed anchor at 1145 and headed in to the Long Island Fuel Pier for diesel and water. I had to wait for near high tide (1300) to go in because of the shallow water. As I got close to the fuel pier I found another boat had gotten in ahead of me and so I had to keep station for 30 min before I could go in. The man at the pier was nice to fuel us even thought it was now the time for him to close for lunch. Getting tied up was a mess as the pier does not have good cleats or bollards. We were almost there with bow and midship lines secured when for some reason the attendant decided to take off the midship line and the wind started spinning Onward's bow into the corner of the pier. After a minor heart attack, I managed to use the engine and thruster to get it fixed enough to get the stern line ashore. This then allowed me to finally dock. Whew! After 37 gal of diesel and 110 gal of diesel, we were off.
- We headed back to George Town and set anchor off Sand Dollar Beach near Ariel. Immediately after getting Onward settled, I launched Venture and we went into the St. Francis Resort where Laureen and Miles had a table. We had a nice dinner together. Melanie presented the Ariels with a beautiful sign she created for them.
- On return to Onward, I had a talk with Melanie that had been building up over several weeks and told her that a communication problem had been growing and efforts to fix it were not working, I felt it was time to part company while we were still good friends.
23 Mar 11; Wednesday
- I went over to Ariel to tell them that Onward was going to stay in George Town until Melanie made necessary arrangements to move on. It was a poignant moment as we had come to enjoy sailing together so much and had been looking forward to a visit of Conception and Cat Islands. I hope to sail with Ariel again in the near future.
- I took Melanie off to town in the morning to run errands and fill water jerry cans. Unfortunately, the package of important papers and a hard drive that Melanie's dad had sent to her uninsured and untracked by snail mail had still not appeared at the George Town post office after nine weeks.
24 Mar 11; Thursday
- I spent the morning doing a bit of cleaning and catching up with things on the computer.
- I learned by email that my father-in-law, Sam Basile, died of a cerebral hemorrhage on Saturday. I was quite saddened as our relationship had remained close in spite of divorce. I then spent a lot of time on the cell phone talking to my children and to their aunts about Sam.
- I invited Deb and Bob from Ancient Mariner to dinner. Deb brought Melanie a hugh conch horn that sounds like a tuba. The two of them blew away as the sun set. The angel hair pasta with sausage in olive oil with pine nuts, capers, bacon, peppers, scallions and mushrooms was a hit as there was less than a portion left. I've really come to enjoy the Ancient Mariners and I hope to see them this summer when they return to Cape Cod.
25 Mar 11; Friday
- I picked up Bob from Ancient Mariner and we went off to town where I visited Immigration to get my visa extended only to get there and find that I had left my US passport card aboard Onward. Bob and I then walked to the local pet store that also sells wifi service - what a combo: goats and wifi.
- On the second trip to town, now armed with the passport card, I was able to get my visa extended to July. I celebrated by going to a new restaurant, Driftwood Inn, where I tried an Uruguayan organic beef sandwich - Delish. I then went back and spent a restful afternoon reading.
- I stopped by to visit Dejarlo and dropped off a copy of the BCG for Pam and Ollie to review. They invited me aboard for a drink. After that, I was off to pick up Sandy and Tom on Anania and we went off to the Two Turtles for dinner. I had been trying to take Tom & Sandy out to dinner since Nov 2007 when they had been such great help to me while sharing a mooring at Vero Beach at the beginning of my first cruise. I had a delicious dinner of ribs on the patio. Sandy related that this place had been the centroid of the cruising community six years ago and then it closed down. Recently reopened, it is starting to make a comeback. They had a great band and I got to do a bit of dancing. I got to meet new friends I met at the table.
26 Mar 11; Saturday
- Melanie organized her belongings to move, apparently to the boat of another friend. While waiting for that boat Deb and Bob invited her to stay aboard Ancient Mariner.
- I spent the day reading another history of the Bahamas.
27 Mar 11; Sunday
- Melanie departed Onward today for Ancient Mariner. I was sad to see this happen and I will miss her but this was the right thing to do for both of us.
- I picked up Bob and we went off to have a nice lunch together at Alvin's Beach Bar where I had the conch burger - Delish. On the way there, I was watching a Catalina depart the anchorage when I happened to notice another Catalina at anchor - then I noticed it was a C470, Koala. I stopped by to say hello and met Jim Dolan before heading off to the beach bar. Later that afternoon Jim and his friend came over for a visit -- its always great to meet up with another C470 owner.
28 Mar 11; Monday
- I went off to town in the morning to run errands. What a difference as the cruising fleet has thinned out: down to ~138 boats from >300 during Regatta. I was able to go into Lake Victoria and right up to the dinghy dock to fill my water jerry cans with no line. The gas station was in the process of refilling its tanks so that chore had to be delayed. I tried another internet provider, J&K Productions, but the bandwidth was too limited to download the newest iPad operating system software. So, I filled the fuel tank and headed back to prepare Onward for a morning departure.
29 Mar 11; Tuesday; George Town to Black Point
- Onward weighed anchor at 0700 and headed N with light NE to SE winds on a beautiful day. I made good time motorsailing up Exuma Sound. Dothan cut was peaceful and I rode the flood in at > 10 kts SOG. I set anchor at 1415 and took the rest of the day off. Tomorrow will be soon enough for laundry. As this was the first time in more than 2 months that I was sailing alone, I found that it was not as hard to adjust as I thought it might be but it was just a bit "empty". Overall, the last 2 months sailing with Melanie as a companion were great and I am happy to have experienced them.
30 Mar 11; Wednesday
- Work day. I went ashore in mid-morning and headed for Rockside Laundry. While a couple of loads were in the washer, Ida gave me another haircut. I love her laugh when I ask her to turn me from a frog into a prince. She has a beautiful voice and sings as she cuts my hair. Neat.
- Then it was off to Lorraine's Cafe where I got some internet work done and had a "surprise lunch" - Tasty grouper fingers, a small salad, and fries -- can't forget the Kalick. Delish.
- In late afternoon in was back to Onward for a nap and then a relaxing afternoon and evening reading and watching another Hornblower ephisode. The A&E network did a really great job on this series.
31 Mar 11; Thursday
- The remnants of a cold front is to come through on Friday -- it's been a long time since I've seen one. The winds are to be < 15 kts so I didn't feel the need to run for protection from the W. Instead I re-anchored Onward closer to the S shore of the bay to get a bit of protection from the SW.
- After a morning working aboard, I went off to shore to do some more work on the internet and to have lunch.