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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Black Point

Surprise, surprise, a log from Beth!

It was an almost still night, with very light winds from the East, which barely moved us in our nice protected bay just South of Black Point. After gathering all the dirty clothes I could find, including the sheets off the beds, I left the boat about 7:45 to dinghy around the point to town to do laundry at the nice, new Rockside Inn Laundermat. I wanted to get there when it opened, so I wouldn't have to wait for a machine, and I hoped I would be able to get more than one. The ride turned out to be a rough one- there wasn't much wind, but there were 2 foot swells that had not been there the day before when we made the dinghy ride then. I tried to zoom across the top of the water, but it was way too bouncy to do so, so I had to putt along at a slow speed, which got me to the laundermat at 8:10.

As I drove up to the dinghy dock, I was a bit anxious as there was no one else docked there. Did they really open at 8, like the sign said, or was that only if they felt like it? As I was trying to figure out how to unload my bulging bags of laundry and keep the dinghy from smashing into the dock, as those swells where pushing me into the dock, I saw the door open and the laundry proprietress come out to sweep off the back porch. I finally figured out how to drop the anchor about 20 feet off the dock, and tie it to the stern, and then tie off the bow to the dock so that I could pull myself in to get myself and my stuff off the boat, then the boat would spring back to about 2 feet away from the dock, and hopefully bob there until I was ready to return. The proprietress came down to help bring all my bags up. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was the first one there. I ended up having the whole place to myself for an hour or so, when even the proprietress left to go get her kids ready for school. I had my clothes in the driers before the next patron showed up. Not exactly the laundry ordeal that we have had before at various marina laundermats!

While my clothes were drying, I walked over to Lorraine's Cafe to pick up the fresh bread we had ordered from her mother the day before when we were in town. It was so fresh that she was still taking loaves out of the pans in her kitchen. After that, I headed back to pack up my clean laundry for the trip back. I brought 2 giant black trash bags to bag up stuff so that it wouldn't get wet on the return trip. Another cruiser, Dick, from Cheetah II, also from NC(Wayne & Janet- Dick says "Hi" from he and Jane.)carried my bags for me down to the dinghy dock and passed them to me, and held the bow line while I got the anchor up and stowed and the engine on and ready to take off. It was a slightly faster ride home, as the swells were now going my way, so I didn't keep crashing on them and could zip right back.

When I got back around 11 a.m. I heard from Mark about the unsuccessful hunt he and Jessie from Contented Turtle had that morning. Noah got to play with David while I was doing laundry and Mark and Jessie were hunting. Turtle decided to head South to find a place for some South wind protection, while Mark & I decided that Black Point had enough of bay to give us protection, so we decided to motor around the point and anchor right in front of town. Could have saved myself the bouncy dinghy ride if I had waited another day for laundry! By anchoring in town, we would be able to then go to dinner at Lorraine's as the dinghy ride back in the dark would be a short one.

We hailed Lorraine's on the radio, made reservations for 6 p.m., and placed our food order. After reassembling our beds-putting fitted sheets on a bed when you only have one side not right up against a wall is a real work out- we did minor boat jobs until it was time to head in to town. We dinghied into town while it was still light and walked around a bit. Noah ran into Malichai, Lorraine's son, and when we arrived at the cafe, the boys stayed outside playing and had to be called in when the food arrived. Mark & I enjoyed chatting with another cruising couple, Ed and Dee from Sea Fox, and ended up having the place to ourselves for dinner.

Over dinner, Ed & Dee told us their horror stories from crossing-having a garbage bag placed in the anchor locker break open and clog the anchor well drains, which then caused the well to fill with water from over the bow. This enabled sea water to drain thru conduits from the locker into the vee berth area and soak their bed and all their clothes! They also had the companionway hatch open and a port hole window that opens to the cockpit in the aft cabin open when a huge wave crashed over the boat and ran all the way down the boat, down the companionway and into the cockpit window. When they arrived in Bimini, they ended up hosing out the vee berth with fresh water to get all the salt out! What a disaster! But they are still cruising.

We headed back to the boat in the dark and had no problem finding our boat, as Mark had turned on a light in the cockpit, and we were about the 4th boat from the shore, and it was almost a full moon. All the running around with Malichai apparently wore Noah out, as he was asleep by 9 - almost a record for him! We messed about with the SSB radio, because I'd recovered the serial cables from under the bed while the sheets were off. The computer now controls the frequency tuning on the radio automatically, making it much easier to tune the radio when sending emails like this one. We followed Noah's lead shortly, and slept soundly.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Staniel to Black Point

Greetings from Black Point, Great Guana Cay, Exumas

Yesterday, we pulled the hook and motored around the south side of the island rather than going through the tiny Fowl Cay cut. The current was running in from Exuma Sound at 2+ knots so we didn't stop at Staniel Cay Yacht Club on the way by. Had a relaxing night on the west side of Big Major's Spot, an area without any current. No midnight anchor drills and plenty of room around the boats.

We did stop at SCYC this morning and filled our water tank for the first time since leaving Nassau. Hard to believe we only took on 91 gallons. Also converted one of our diesel jugs to gasoline use since we've been using a fair amount of gas in the dinghy. Jill from "Born to Cruise" out of NW Creek in New Bern, NC called out hello as we were filling the water tank. Didn't see them coming in since I am still fascinated by watching the nurse sharks under the dock.

The trip from Staniel to Black Point was less than two hours with light winds and no appreciable waves. We passed the settlement and anchored in the next bay south. Only two boats were here when we arrived and now we are one of four. Beautiful beach with some development starting, but only one house is actually completed. Contented Turtle is also here and we tandem dinghied back up to the settlement. Supplies were in abundance as the ship was at the Government Dock when we arrived. Noah didn't want to climb the wooden ladder up to the dock, since he was afraid of splinters, but one of the local men encouraged him to come up as Beth prodded from below.

Proceeded to Lorraine's Cafe, which appears to be the hub of the community. Met Lorraine's mother under a tree out front. She is the baker and we ordered bread to be picked up tomorrow. The crew of Turtle knew Lorraine from year's past, so introduced us inside the Cafe. Cold drinks and pleasant conversation followed as the last of the lunch crowd was leaving and dinner was a few hours off. The cafe has an internet computer and a book exchange. Noah and David found a tree to climb out front and used seed pods, first as maracas and then as knives. Lorraine's son Malachai is nine and he played with the boys after getting home from school. All the students here where uniforms and attend the "Black Point All Grades School" which looks out over the bay.

Beth cased out the laundramat in preparation for serious washing tomorrow. The starting gates open at 0800. For those of you who haven't cruised before, laundry is a VERY competitive sport. Thou shalt not leave any machine not running for more than 2 seconds. Also found some fresh tomatoes and ammonia at the store. There are three restaurants here, a post office, Batelco, a school and clinic. If there was protection from west winds, we could stay for quite a while.

Exciting news from the West Coast is that Beth's sister Judy just bought a retirement home in Fairfield Harbor where we kept our boat in New Bern, NC. It will be great to have her and Gary nearby.

Successful Hunters

Monday, January 29, 2007

Cold Front

The cold front arrived and temps dropped to 69 this morning with 17 kt winds, bringing the wind chill down enough that we had to put on sweatshirts this morning! Winds were less than predicted and we didn't see anything over 23 kts.

The last two nights were rather restless as we were up and down making sure everyone stayed in the same spot. Yesterday afternoon a group of boats came in just before the front and our secure swing arc became a bit questionable. The anchorage held 29 boats by sunset. Around midnight the boat that was beside us in the afternoon was behind us due to the current and wind conditions. The two boats were closer than anyone was comfortable with, so Beltaine put out another anchor using their dinghy and pulled themselves a little more north. Nobody dragged, it was just a matter of anchoring too close.  One thing of concern was that the VHF wasn't usable overnight. Someone had an "open" mic so there was static and wind noise on channel 16. If someone was in trouble, the normal method of hailing for help wasn't available.

Contented Turtle returned to the area yesterday, so Noah and David had a chance to play. "Wingnuts" is their current favorite computer game. The boys need a little time to swim and run around on shore, so we are looking forward to the predicted east winds and returning to the calmer, lee side, anchorage.

Used up the last of our fresh water in the main tank this morning. It provided a good opportunity to change the water filters. We added five gallons from the jerry jug so we'll be fine for another day. The plan is to take Intuition over to Staniel Cay Yacht Club this   afternoon and fill up the main tanks so we don't have to lug water in the dinghy. Some boats are going through the small cut between Big Majors Spot and Fowl Cay, but we are too chicken. Will then go anchor behind Big Majors Spot for the night. Tomorrow we may go down to Black Point settlement for a change of scenery.

Although we didn't hear the call on the radio, there was a sailboat   that had engine troubles this morning. They were using the cruiser's version of Towboat.US. One dinghy was tied along side and two others  guided the boat to another anchorage.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Still Hanging Between the Majors

We've stayed put here between Big and Little Major Spots waiting for the cold front and clocking winds due tomorrow. It is an interesting place to be with this east wind and a view of the waves crashing on the rocks from Exuma Sound to our north and south. It can be a bit uncomfortable when the wind overpowers the current so we get a side-to-side motion from the surge, but it isn't too bad.

Our wi-fi antenna continues to work well and we've had visitors come over and utilize "our" floating internet cafe. Enjoyed visiting with David & Ruth on "Oasis" from Hardwick, VT yesterday afternoon. David graded Noah's math assignment while Ruth checked on their kids via email.

Checked our neighbor boat again today using the window in the dinghy. His Danforth anchor had only a portion of one fluke buried. Looked like it reset with the change in current. He was also the only boat here that wasn't displaying an anchor light. We pulled up stakes and moved a little bit south for peace of mind. It took two tries to find a patch of sand, but the anchor looks well buried. It surprises me how many people drop the hook and then take off in their dinghies for points unknown without looking at their anchor to see if it was set. We may still drag, but at least the anchor looks like it is set.

Noah had a long day of school yesterday, going until almost 1600. Today was better with a review session and only a cursive session that took longer than it should. He received some emails from cub scout friends back in Durham, so that raised his spirits.  He took on a new responsibility, that of polishing the stainless on the bow. He did a good job cleaning and waxing the windlass this afternoon.

The VHF radio "rang" this afternoon. It does this whenever someone with digital selective calling (DSC) calls us. We only have two numbers programmed in, and only one boat is in the Bahamas, so it had to be "Born to Cruise." This was our first voice contact with Wayne & Jill who are from Raleigh and kept BTC at Northwest Creek in New Bern.

Fixed the latch on the companionway door using a screw to replace the broken handle on the barrel bolt. This will keep the hatch from sliding open in rough seas. Went for 48 hrs without running the generator, but all that computer time and winds under 12 kts lead us to run the Honda again this afternoon.

The moon was reflected in the lid of the barbecue as we grilled burgers for dinner. The other vision while grilling was that of the anchor just off the port stern quarter of the boat. Still getting used to anchoring where the wind and current oppose. At least it appeared well buried.

New fishing regulations went into effect here this week. Non-residents can no longer take conch. The language also sounds like spearing of fish or crayfish (lobster) is now illegal. Sent an email to the fisheries office for clarification on the last points as the language was a bit unclear.

Temps have fallen under 80 for the first time since we've been in the Bahamas. It is 75 degrees as I write this an hour after sunset. Starting to ramble about the weather, so must be time to sign-off.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hanging Out in the Bahamas

Communications was the theme of today. Things finally came together and we were able to talk with Earl in NC on the Ham radio. Three o'clock on 14.287 USB seemed to be the magic combination allowing both sides to communicate clearly.  Icing on the cake was a good wi-fi signal that allowed us to talk with my parents using Skype for the first time since leaving Florida. Spent much of the morning while Noah was in school trying various fixes for the web site, but some broken links remain.

All this computer and radio work pulled down the batteries. This called for pulling out the Honda generator for three hours in the morning adding 150 Ahrs to the house bank. Since then, the wind has done a good job of keeping us neutral. The wind picked up yesterday afternoon as predicted.

This was our first real cold front on anchor where the wind completly clocked around. It went from SW to W yesterday afternoon and picked up to 20 kts. After sunset it turned N and picked up a little more with a few gusts over 25. Lots more boats came in here between Little & Big Major's spot during the afternoon. Space was running low, so a group anchored just off the reef where we snorkled yesterday. Another boat came in and anchored just in front of us. We made a run over his anchor and it was a small fortress with only one fluke buried. I went over and showed him how it looked. He is a single hander, and mentioned that he often dragged anchor so didn't get much sleep on windy nights. Diving on, or at least looking at the anchor with a look down bucket, is really important especially when the winds are picking up.

Friends on "Sol Y Mar" had a problem today with a 1.5" thru-hull giving way today. They were aboard and put in a wooden plug to stop the flow. For those able to look at our web page, it is the big Beneteau in the photo with the rainbow. They are heading down to Georgetown to be hauled as soon as the sea state calms down.

Beth and Noah rigged up the new hammock, trying various spots on the boat. Turned out that under the bimini is a good spot. The shade of the bimini is needed as temps are in the high 80's.  Disassembled the vented loop on the engine exhaust and cleaned the valve. There was a small amount of water spraying out on the engine, so we hope this fixes the problem. Want to keep that new engine clean and rust free!

There is a bit of roll in the anchorage this morning and we can see breakers south of us as the winds are NNE allowing some waves in out of the Sound. It is not uncomfortable and we're glad we came in a couple of days before everyone else to get a good spot. Looks like we'll stay put for a few more days as another cold front is going to come through on Sunday.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Calm Before...

We re-anchored this morning, moving to the edge of the sand, just before it became grass. It gained us another two feet of depth so we should be fine. As we bring up the anchor, Noah's job is to keep the chain from castling by knocking it down with a plunger. He did his job today without complaints. Noah is also improving his skills as a dinghy driver.

The excitement of the morning was finally connecting via marine SSB to Earl back in North Carolina. It was light, but 6227 worked at 0800. It was great to hear a friendly voice from home.

Noah completed school before 1000, so we had time for snorkeling. Winds were light and we explored the southeast end of Big Major Spot. Lots of fish on a shallow reef kept Noah interested. He was trying his darndest to dive down to the bottom, but his wetsuit provided too much buoyancy. Took him over the sand and let him hold Beth's weight belt. He expected it to take him down, but it didn't. He still had to kick to get to the bottom, where he promptly dropped the weights and bounced back up like a cork. Enjoyed peanut butter and jam on tortillas after the dive. We do like the look down window for finding reefs. Motored around looking for another good place, but the current had picked up too much to swim.

Took the dinghy through the cut between Big Majors Spot and Fowl Cay. We were quoting "The Little Engine That Could" as we pushed against the outgoing tide. Some folks use this tiny cut as a short cut, but I wouldn't do it in the big boat unless it was at slack. I doesn't look any wider than our 35 is long.  Looked to see if any kid boats were still on the West side of the island, but the boat count was down from 48 a couple of days ago to 8.

Noah did spy a cave on the edge of the water between Middle and North beaches. The current doesn't bother this side of the island, so we went in to explore. The cave was small, and had an open ceiling so it was perfect for an eight year old. We were pleasantly surprised to find a small reef beside it with quite a variety of fish. After this we headed back to Intuition for fresh water rinses.

The mail boat came in this morning, so it is shopping day. We zoomed over to town and stopped at Staniel Cay Yacht Club (SCYC) to get more water. Dinghied up the creek to visit Isles General Store. It was now 1530 and they were already out of Bread and Cabbage, the two things on our list. They did have more of a variety than the other two stores on the Island, but not as many groceries. This is the place to come for boat supplies or post cards. Noah asked to go for a walk, so he and I walked back through town while Beth took the dinghy (now dubbed Pelican) back to SCYC.

Noah found a shortcut to the Pink Store and the proprietress was sitting on a bench weaving straw baskets. They had fresh bread, baked by her daughter whom we met on the way out, but no cabbage. On to the Blue Store and they still had cabbage! Noah even found some ten cent candy and I bought a loaf of Banana Bread. Prices are a bit higher than home with bread at $5 and a head of cabbage for $3.75, but shopping is a fun adventure. The vehicle of choice here is the golf cart. A sign on the community bulletin boards reminds people that you must "hold a drivers license to drive a cart."

Getting back to SCYC, there were some other kids so Noah stopped to visit. It was also fish cleaning time so the area under the docks was popular with sharks and rays. We counted 9 nurse sharks and 3 big rays looking for handouts. Fun to watch, but not a place to go swimming!  It looked like rain to the southwest, so we headed back to Intuition. Today's lesson was don't wait until afternoon when the mail boat comes in the morning.

Getting back to the anchorage, a few more boats pulled in, including friend on Oasis. There are now 12 boats anchored between the Majors. Grilled turkey burgers and enjoyed them on fresh bread.

There is a Bahamian cruisers radio net on 4006 at 1900, and we tried it for the first time last night. Heard friends on "Ministry" asking for copper foil and it just so happens we had some, so volunteered it. "Ministry" is up in Pipe Creek, but "Just Ducky" volunteered to swing by and pick it up. When we explained that we were an Island Packet 35, they said they would recognize the boat since they have IP 35 hull number 1. They are Joe and Carole out of Forest Hill, MD. It is a small world. For our IP friends, the previous "Ministry" was an IP 38.

Noah's now listening to the second Harry Potter book on CD. Hard to beat that as entertainment.

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