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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Anchoring, Anchoring, and Anchoring some more

Thursday started out, as usual, with school. Noah was less than excited about doing his schoolwork so his parents were getting testy. He had complained on Wednesday that the inside of the dinghy was dirty so, after school, he was assigned to clean it. Checking on him after about twenty minutes found him sitting in the flooded dinghy asking for more soap. He had pulled the drain plug! After a heated discussion, he spent the next forty minutes bailing out the boat.

Looking at the guide books we decided to head north to Pelican Cays Land & Sea Park to do some snorkling. It was only a forty minute trip before we anchored behind Sandy Cay. Unfortunately, there was too much surge from the North Bar Channel to make the anchorage comfortable and ocean waves were breaking near where we hoped to snorkel. Going further north we spotted Iceni anchored of Tiloo Cay, but no one was home and the seas were still rolling up from the channel. We decided to go around Tavern Cay where there would be protection from the south.

Passing a stone tower that looked as if it belonged on a castle, the surge subsided and we were ready to drop the hook at 1709. (Warning - boring anchoring description ahead - skip to next paragraph). We backed down and all seemed well until we went and checked the anchor in the dinghy. It was laying on the bottom with barely a fluke catching on the bottom. Back to the boat to reanchor. This time it didn't catch at all, so we moved a little bit south and tried again. Backing down again at 1740 the boat seemed well set. Putting out to check with the dinghy showed that we were firmly hooked -- on a *!*#*! cable. By 1825 we had extricated ourselves from the cable and were re-anchoring, but the CQR wasn't holding. Pulled it back in and set the Bruce anchor as the sun set behind Tiloo Cay. Checking it with the dinghy yielded some concern as it only had one fluke in. We were tired and grumpy, so decided to eat dinner and watch the anchor. I watched the boat position on the computer and set the anchor drag alarm on the GPS so it would beep if the boat moved more than 0.01 nautical miles. The wind picked up to 17 knots just after 2200 and the alarm sounded as we started slowly dragging back into the channel. Beth and I went out and dropped the CQR with lots of chain behind the Bruce. This stopped our movement and we actually managed some sleep after that. If we do this again, we'll look for an anchor that sets well in grass and hard packed sand as that is where neither the Bruce nor CQR does well. I guess we have been spoiled by the nice sand anchorages in the Central Bahamas.

Waking up early Friday morning we were, thankfully, in the same spot. We all vowed to make this a better day. School went quickly and then we took the dinghy out in quest of a spot to snorkel. The guide book recommended Tiloo Cut so we surveyed it through the window in the Caribe. We were disappointed in the mostly lifeless structure. There was some soft coral and a few fish, but the hard coral was white or covered with green algae. Earl, had recommended visiting Tahiti Beach, so we returned from the cut and headed towards the end of Elbow Cay. Tahiti Beach is a beach that turns into a sandbar at the south point of Elbow Cay. Lots of shallow water and beautiful sand made it a great spot for building sand castles and looking for shells.
Back on the boat for lunch, we decided to head up towards Marsh Harbour to refill our water tanks and then move on to Hopetown to see friends on Iceni. The two anchors came up more easily than expected (the windlass doesn't help with the last thirty feet of chain on the Bruce) and we were underway by 1350. As we approached Marsh Harbour, we called Boat Harbour Marina to see about stopping to purchase water. There is a fishing tournament on, so they weren't excited about a sailboat tying up their fuel dock when the sport fishers came in to fill up their fuel hungry engines. We still have a full tank of diesel, so wouldn't be spending much money. The wind was picking up as well and we decided to bypass Boat Harbour and get water on a day with less activity. By 1608 we were anchored by Iceni near the red and white stripped lighthouse just outside of Hopetown harbour. After examining our position on the chart we decided we were too close to the channel and pulled up the anchor. Hoping that this wouldn't be a repeat of yesterday, we avoided several spots marked as cable crossings and ended up anchoring a little further south, just off the beach in front of a resort that is no longer open. A brief rain shower cleared the salt off the dodger windows and ushered in a beautiful sunset. Noah and I signalled the event with blasts on the conch horn. The signal was answered by some territorial roosters and a couple of geese from a nearby waterfront home. After sunset we could see the beam from the kerosene lamp on the lighthouse sweeping the sky. The light still uses a manually wound system and we want to come back in a few days and visit the inner harbor and see the lighthouse up close.

We finished reading about Bilbo's adventures in "The Hobbit" and were all asleep by 2100. It was a restful night until we woke up with the roosters at 0530. They don't seem to be on the same schedule as the sun. Talking with Iceni this morning they mentioned that they had to shut their hatches to cut
down the noise and music from Hopetown. I'm glad we anchored a little further down the shore.
Today we will move on to Man-O-War Cay, in search of water. We haven't purchased any since Compass Cay in the Exumas.

Little Harbour

Little Harbour was a good place to get rested after the crossing from Spanish Wells. The mooring float made from an old tire was an indication of the unique character of the area. We had read "Artist on His Island" by Randolph Johnston who left Massachusetts with his family in the 1950's and sailed to the Bahamas settling in Little Harbour. He was a sculptor and the area is now a community of artists who do castings of bronze. His son Pete runs the foundry today, as well as Pete's Pub, an open air restaurant.

After a bit of school work we went ashore and walked over to the ocean side to look for sea beans. Beth found one and Noah made sticks into swords. On the walk over the hill there were life sized sculptures of turtles, dolphins, sharks and rays on either side of the path. We visited the foundry and watched a turtle being cast into a mold to make a lamp. From there we visited the gallery where a similar lamp was on display. When watching it made, I thought it might make a unique addition to our living room at home, but decided against it when seeing the $4,750 price tag on the one in the gallery! There were some beautiful pieces depicting sea creatures actively engaged in the food chain as well as a couple depicting the life of man.

We met Bob, C6ALD, a ham radio operator who lives on the island, for lunch at Pete's pub. He is part of the weather net we participate in. It was fun to put a face to the voice. Noah met a boy from Pennsylvania at the pub and they played the ring toss game until we were finished visiting.
Noah's new friend came back to the boat with us and they played on the computer. Beth and I took turns playing on a Hobie "Island" trimaran kayak that the folks on s/v Movin On let us try. It was a real hoot zipping around the anchorage with only 6 kts of wind. Calypso was in the harbor as well and Phil gave us each a Calypso very nice little led flashlight. We'd given them some photos of Calypso as they were leaving Spanish Wells and as they were arriving in Little Harbour.
Because we needed high tide to leave the harbor, we dropped the mooring at 1556 and it was picked up by s/v Freedom, another Island Packet. By 1650 we were anchored of Lynyard Cay, had the dinghy in the water and were off looking for other kid boats. The first boat we stopped at was from France and had just arrived from Spanish Wells. They were in the moorings there with us and waited another day before crossing. He was working hard to clean a 54" wahoo they had caught on the way over. The next boat was s/v Our Turn, a lovely Island Packet 445, owned by Claire & Paul Smith from Farmington Hills, Michigan where Beth and I owned our first home together. They didn't have kids aboard, but pointed us to s/v Stardust where we met Jim, Kathy and Rachel along with Whitefoot their big black labrador. The kids played while we visited for a bit before heading home to get dinner ready.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Spanish Wells to Little Harbour, Abacos

Sunday, 22 April, was a relaxing day on the mooring. The town is pretty much closed down, so we did boat chores and put another coat of cetol on the teak. Noah had a great time at the sleepover on Iceni and didn't get back aboard Intuition until almost 10 am. The kids were up several times in the night due to rain, mosquitos and general chattering.

Karen, on Tiki, came over and asked if the "Kumihimo lady" was aboard. She and Beth met in Georgetown where Beth introduced her to this Japanese braiding technique and Karen was ready to learn some new patterns. Tiki was only a few moorings away.

Monday morning we listened to the weather and it sounded like Tuesday would be the day to go. Winds and seas were too high on Monday, should moderate on Tuesday and might moderate so much on Wednesday that we would have to motor. We this in mind, Iain and I drove our dinghy out to Ridley Head, following our planned course in a handheld GPS. We had good light and low water, so we could see the coral heads clearly, even in nine foot swells. After scouting the area, we went back to the boat and downloaded the track from the GPS into the computer and compared it to the charted course using Coastal Explorer. After a few tweaks, we were both confident that we could follow the track out, even with less than ideal light on Tuesday morning.

Both families went to town and did one last shopping trip at the Food Fair. We bought the essentials; chocolate and pizza. Both were good bargains and would make for a special meal before the big crossing. The kids all wanted to buy M&M's. After figuring out that a big bag would get them more for their money than three small bags, they split the price of a 1.5 pounder. Back on Intuition they split the booty into ziplocks and then turned Noah's cabin into some kind of a space cruiser from Star Wars. Karen stopped by again and gave Beth a straw basket she had made from local palm fronds. It is very special with handles made out of shells.

Tuesday dawned grey with rain off to the southeast for our "big" atlantic crossing from Eleuthera to the Abacos. Checking with Chris Parker for the weather yielded a "go" forecast of East winds at 18 kts moderating to 16 later in the day in a 5 foot swell with a 4-5 ft wind chop. Dropped the mooring line at 0724 and headed out with Iceni following since we had the electronic charting capability. The routing worked well and we were safely outside the reefs by 0749 motorsailing at 7.2 kts to charge
up the batteries.

We had been so preoccupied with safely clearing the reefs that we had neglected to force Noah into the cockpit. We were headed north and the wind and seas were on the beam making for a very rolly ride. He joined us at 0815 to deposit the contents of his tummy onto the cockpit floor. Turns out he had forsaken breakfast and broken into the chocolate in the refrigerator. The evidence lay before us for all to see. A bucket of seawater quickly cleared it away.

We spotted a freighter called the "Imperial Fortune" coming in from the East and slowed down to let it pass in front of us by turning off the engine. It was interesting that this large ship did not appear on AIS. We did track him on radar and he passed 1.5 miles ahead of us moving off towards Nassau. Our speed dropped to 5 kts and Iceni broke out their spinnaker to make use of the lighter 10-12 kt breeze. This made for some nice photo ops as they caught up with and passed us. Iceni is a 40' Warrior
and we expect them to be faster under sail than us with their additional five foot length.

Over the next three hours, the wind picked up and by lunch time we were doing 7.3 kts after putting a reef in the main. We counted nine sailboats headed on a similar course as we zipped along rolling up and down the nine foot waves. Noah was still not feeling very well, but didn't want to follow our advice to sit up and look at the horizon. He was laying face down in the cockpit when a wave rolled us enough that he slid off the seat onto the floor. Only a couple of scuffs, but he decided to sit up
after that.

At 1338 Beth sighted land and we reefed the Jib to lessen our heel as the wind was up in the low twenties. At some point, Iceni had doused their spinnaker due to the stronger winds and we, in our fat little Island Packet, snuck by and lead them to the Little Harbor cut. With the stronger than expected winds we arrived sooner than expected and started the engine up to go through the cut. With an East wind and a rising tide the entry was relatively smooth and we were inside the cut by 1500.
Because we arrived at almost high tide, we decided to go into Little Harbor proper and take a mooring ball. The entrance is only one meter at low water and we need about 1.5 meters to remain floating so we took the opportunity to go in. The Iceni crew wasn't interested in visiting this artist community so they went on to anchor a little further North. We hope to catch up with them in a couple of days. We covered 51.7 nautical miles from Eleuthera to the Abacos in just under eight hours. Not a bad day!

After showers and western egg sandwiches for dinner we all felt much better. Noah also had crackers and a bowl of cereal to help fill the void in his tummy. Turns out that several of the catamarans we'd met in Cambridge Cay and Spanish Wells were here for a "Manta (the brand of cat) Migration" rendezvous. Noah and I went for a dinghy ride to survey the area and found a mangrove creek and a cave he wants to explore tomorrow. There was a green sea turtle that swam along in front of us for a few minutes until he thought we were too close and disappeared under the water. Back at the boat we are hearing snapping shrimp under the hull for the first time in a long while. There could probably be a band playing under there tonight and it wouldn't keep us awake. Time to shut the computer down and get some shut-eye.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Harbour Island

Tuesday was birthday day. It was Steve's birthday on Sophia and, the main reason for staying here, it was Fraser's 7th birthday on Icene. Noah made a card and the crew of Calypso gave us a ride over to Icene, who was at the other end of town in the mooring field. The kids had a good time and the adults caught up on what had happened since our paths diverted in the Exumas. Another couple, Babette and Tom on Escape came over and we learned they were from Rutland, Vermont and used to keep their boat in Willsboro, NY on Lake Champlain. They set off for a six month cruise of the Bahamas and have been here for two years in their Hunter 27.

Wednesday we decided to visit Harbour Island via the fast ferry mv Bo Hengy. Bo Hengy is a catamaran passenger ferry running from Nassau to Harbour Island and back with a stop in Spanish Wells. We've read lots of warnings about this route, called the "Devils Backbone," because it has so many reefs. Brought our GPS along to record the route for future reference. It was an interesting trip as we headed north out of Spanish Wells and the ferry revved up to 37 knots into the waves breaking on the reefs after crossing the Atlantic. We enjoyed a great view from the top deck as the captain maintained a fine line between the reefs and the beach. At times we were less than a boat length off the beach, just outside the breaking waves.

Arriving in Harbour Island brought us to a bustling resort community where golf carts are the primary form of transportation. We rented an "off road" cart and set off to explore. First stop was the beach on the Atlantic side where we met five ponies walking on the famous pink (from conch shells) sand beach. From there we headed to the other side of the Island to eat good crached conch and grouper at a "take out" restaurant overlooking the bay. Take-outs are where the locals eat and are considerably less expensive than the fancy resort restaurants. Noah observed a flock of sandpipers with his binoculars while we waited for our food to be cooked.

The resorts here are very nice and we visited most of them. Both marinas are nice, but offer no protection when winds blow from out of the west. Met the crew of Lelsie Ann III, an beautiful Island Packet 485. We helped them cast off their lines and they reported being unable to get off the boat for over 24 hours during the front that we weathered comfortably in Spanish Wells. A dive center, elegant restaurant, and nice cottages all surrounded by flowering shrubs would make this an appealing place for a vacation. Heading down to the "narrows" at the other west end of the island we took some photos of Leslie Ann III in the distance heading towards the Devil's Backbone towing a pilot boat. We looked for sea beans, but didn't have any luck. Back in town we tried to spend money at a batique fabric store and a shell shop, but neither was open. Spent our last hour back on the beach where Noah met a family from Massachusetts with two girls and helped them build a sand castle. They were there to celebrate a wedding where eighty guests had accepted the invitation after investigating the location.

Returning to the ferry for our 1600 departure we met a couple on their honeymoon that were both from North Carolina. Also a nice couple from Sweden that knew of the Swedish solar/electric boat we'd met in the Abacos. We would definitely recommend this side trip on the fast ferry. Much less stressful than doing it in your own boat, though not much less expensive than hiring a pilot. The ferry is $25/person round trip and pilots charge $60 each way.

Back at Spanish Wells Yacht Haven (where it is $1/ft and $5 for electric) we were greeted by the crew of Iceni who stayed for an elegant dinner of hot dogs and beans. Noah had a great day, getting to go to have an island adventure, drive a golf cart, play on the beach and see his friends.

More Spanish Wells

We obviously like Spanish Wells, because we are still here. During school on Thursday I sanded and prepped the teak on the stern rail for refinishing. It had been scrapped earlier and is in need of protection, being the only part of the boat that didn't get refinished prior to leaving NC.
After school Noah and I went with the Iceni crew to explore the western end of Spanish Wells. After walking past beautifully maintained fishing boats and neatly kept homes we came to a new bridge connecting Spanish Wells to Russell Island, the only two places one can drive to without putting your car on the "ss Freedom Defender" car barge.

The old bridge was still in the channel, deposited there by a hurricane. Just past the bridge was a delightful park with restrooms, an outdoor shower, playground equipment, shaded picnic tables and some resident ducks. The view wasn't too shabby either as we looked out past the beach sand flats to some rectangular shaped rock islands and big swells breaking on the reefs. There were four kids playing in the park and a couple adults reading in the shade. This is a real jewel of a place! While we were exploring the beach, Beth went grocery shopping and restocked our cereal supply at the big Food Fair store. We learned that it is community owned and offers a 15% discount for reprovisioning if you talk to the store manager before shopping. Do be aware that they only accept cash.
Various crews in the marina had been working to make conch horns during the day and sunset brought eight horn blowers to the end of the dock. We all had great fun blowing the sun down into the ocean and getting the roosters and dogs of Spanish Wells riled up.

After Thursday's evening serenade, we decided it might be wise to change locations on Friday morning. We took one more hot shower and cast off our lines to motor 0.6 nm where we picked up a mooring at the east end of the harbor. There are nine moorings here that can be rented for $10/day by calling "Cinnobar" on the VHF radio. After settling in Noah did school and I put a coat of Cetol Light on the teak. After lunch Noah and Beth went to the bank coming back with some cash and a quart of ice cream. Iceni did their reprovisioning in the afternoon and the kids came over here to play while Ian and Sue organized the groceries.

We visited with the crew of sv Sunset on the mooring behind us, whom we had last seen in Rock Sound. They stowed their two part dinghy on deck and got underway towards the Abacos about an hour before sunset. They sail slowly and planned for a mid-morning arrival near Little Harbor. This after spending the day riding bikes around Harbour Island. They are considerably more energetic and a bit younger than Beth and I!

During dinner we heard the sounds of a big diesel and popped up into the cockpit to see a big coastal freighter less than a boat length away. They had a lookout perched on the bow as they turned the ship around in the channel so they could get the opening bow facing the dock. There is considerably more activity at this end of the harbor as we are opposite the government dock and just off the channel that leads to the ocean. After Noah and I took turns helping the sun go down with our conch horn we read a couple chapters in "The Hobbit" which Iceni loaned us and we started reading last night.

The sky is cloudy this morning and we are hoping for a little bit of rain to help fill the tanks. The well water here (what else would you expect in Spanish Wells?) tastes a little bit salty so we didn't fill up with water. Noah got up and sat on deck for a while drawing a very nice pencil picture of a house across the channel he named the "Pink Dolphin House." Now it is back to school and time to fire up the radio to email the blogs.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Intuition Log - 16 April

After a calm night on anchor at Meeks Patch we did a little school and then pulled up the hook to head over to Spanish Wells. Calling the fuel dock we were told that another boat was there so we decided to wait outside the harbor entrance where there would be more room. With 18 kts of wind almost on the nose we held a stationary position with just a little engine power for 35 minutes until the dock was clear. This gave us time to observe other boats going in and out of the narrow and busy channel.

We've only used 24 gallons of diesel since our last fill on 24 March at Staniel Cay. Prices here are reported to be the lowest in the Bahamas and we concur at $2.38 a gallon. The dock help could be better, as they released the boat prior to me boarding! The current almost took Intuition into the boat behind us before I had a chance to jump aboard and reach the throttle. It was noon, so it must have been time to go to lunch.

Shortly after that we were tied off at Spanish Wells Yacht Haven. Here the dock hand helped three boats dock in rapid succession with three knots of current and no major problems. The marina is only $1/foot and is centrally located. It hasn't quite recovered from Hurricane Floyd, but they have ambitious plans for the future, which will then make it more than $1/foot!

Spanish Wells is an interesting town on Charles and Russell Islands just off the Northwest coast of Eleuthera. The inhabitants are descended from English Puritans who arrived in 1648. It is the only Methodist Island in the Bahamas and the residents are almost entirely white, quite the opposite of most of the country. Unlike the towns on Eleuthera, this is not primarily a tourist destination. The economy here is driven by lobster fishing. The season is closed now so all the boats are in port while
the fisherman paint and prepare them for the next season.

We walked most of the island on Saturday. There is a HUGE (by Bahamian standards) Food Fair grocery store, nice beaches and lots of small, pastel painted homes. Residents have flowering shrubs and lots of unique lawn ornaments made from flotsam and jetsam making it fun to look at each yard. Noticed that all the buildings have white painted roofs, no matter what material they are made from. It must help reflect some of the heat. Temps were in the mid-eighties so we stopped for a treat and had milk shakes at a real soda fountain.

Met several other cruisers here in the marina. Was able to pass on the "secret" method of programming frequencies into an Icom Single Side Band radio with Calypso, the boat next door. Turned out they are from Portland Maine and he taught photography at Stanford before going off and developing computer programs for marketing companies, so we had quite a bit in common. An interesting boat in the marina is CuRosa from Helsinki, Finland. Two young couples are aboard and the unique boat has lots of hand made metal work, with a seahorse for their figurehead. They are headed for Bermuda and then back to Finland.

Sunday morning I walked up to the Methodist Church. It is a modern hexagonal building and the first Methodist church I've ever seen that has its own beach! The people were welcoming and polite, but it was disappointingly much like a service at home. Not the energy and enthusiasm shown in some of the other churches in the Bahamas.

The town does close up pretty tight on Sunday, but we did find one restaurant open for dinner. We were the only patrons until a woman showed up for take-out. Turns out she is from Washington, NC and works in New Bern. A few minutes later Phil and Maryanne showed up from Calypso. The locals were probably in evening church services.

Other than wanting to see the community, we came here to seek protection from the cold front that came down from the US East coast over the last few days. It arrived here last night bringing West winds in the mid-30's and dropping the temperatures down to 73. Sounds like this was a good choice as eight boats stayed at Royal Island, three dragged, one went aground and taking on water.
News from Michigan is that Beth's dad came through carotid stent surgery on Wednesday. It went well and he is recovering in the hospital. He hopes to go home tomorrow, but hasn't received permission from the doctors yet. Beth has done laundry and updated our .mac email at Teen Planet today. Haven't found free wi-fi here and paid the most to date for access at $10 for an hour. It did allow her to Skype and talk with her dad and sisters.

Noah and I walked the town in search of a stern light this afternoon. The marine stores are good here, but the parts are stocked for commercial fishing boats, not pleasure sailboats. We didn't find anything suitable. We did stumble upon a shop in the garage of a home that sold very nice shells. Found a reasonably priced conch horn, so now I have no excuse for not greeting the sunset properly. Just have to learn to put my lips together and blow! The elderly lady that owns the shop demonstrated for
Noah and I. She also had interesting starfish and different lobster shells that fisherman bring her to preserve.

The next weather window to cross to the Abacos may be Thursday or possibly not until early next week. In either event we hope to take the Fast Ferry over to Harbour Island to see that resort area before we go.

We just ended the day by taking turns blowing our new conch horn. Noah almost has it working, Beth needs more practice and I got a note to sound. Gordon on Current Jumper put us all to shame by playing a long, loud tone and then jumping up an octave. Turns out he is a trombone player. That is much better prior experience than my ancient history of sax honking.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Current Cut

Yesterday at 0826 we headed out between the cliffs that guard the entrance to Hatchet Bay. The wind was on the nose, but under 10 knots so no sailing, but it wasn't uncomfortable. After talking to other cruisers we decided to bypass "The Glass Window" and head over to Royal Island. The Glass Window is an area that used to be a natural stone bridge through which you can see the Atlantic. The natural bridge collapsed in a hurricane and there is now a man made span bridging the gap. We were able to view it through the binoculars as we passed on the Sound side.

We rerigged the handline with a lure on a wire leader so it might hold up better to the fish we're finding with sharp teeth. Dropped it in the water at 0920 and fifteen minutes later we had a nice spanish mackerel on the line. This time we netted him and dropped him in a 5 gallon plastic bucket so he couldn't get away. Gave him a drink of rum to quiet him down and turned him into ten mackerel steaks. Pulled the handline back in as we approached Current Cut and -- argh -- the lure was gone. It broke off just behind the planer.

The timing of our passage through Current Cut was just prior to low tide so that the current would be slowly ebbing through the cut. The challenge here is that tides are between 1 and 2.5 hours later than Nassau according to the different guide books. There aren't local tide stations, so you have to watch the water and get a feel for the local tide conditions. The reason for the concern here is that the tide can flow through Current Cut at upwards of 7 kts, about the top speed of Intuition. Our
passage was only mired by a bump on the bottom as I cut the turn a little to close. We had about 1.5 kts of outgoing current an hour and ten minutes after low tide in Nassau which made for an easy pass through the narrow opening.

We called "Cinnobar" to see if there were any moorings available in Spanish Wells, but there were none. Our fall back plan was to anchor at Royal Island and we had the hook down there by 1300. It is a nicely protected anchorage with mostly grass on the bottom. Beth scouted out a sandy patch and we buried the CQR nicely. Only "Sea Bear," a large motor yacht was there when we arrived. Chris Parker mentioned that there would be a line of intense squalls and thunderstorms coming through overnight. This brought seven other boats to the anchorage before sunset.

With clouds on the horizon we decided to eat early. Grilled the mackerel steaks and they were delicious. Even Noah liked them! Glad we ate early because by 1800 it looked like night and the skies opened up. We were lucky that winds only gusted to 30 kts and most of the lightning stayed North of us. Within an hour the rain stopped, the wind was down to 5 kts, and there was a beautiful rainbow over the anchorage. During that hour, the winds and our boat did a complete 360 degree circle.

Royal Island is now private and is being developed. There was considerable activity with a dump truck, a bulldozer and power boats zooming in and out of the anchorage delivering people and landscape plants. "Danger" and "Private" signs discourage people from going ashore. There are ruins of a former private mansion that look like they would be fun to explore. We will probably return here to stage for our crossing to the Abacos sometime next week.

This morning the water was perfectly still and we were sitting beside our anchor. Days like this always amaze me as it seems like we are floating in air over an aquarium. We did school and explored the anchorage by dinghy. Were surprised to hear the US Coast Guard on channel 16 out of Miami 160 miles away. Also hearing Boat/US every once in a while. The radio traffic here is annoying. Between the taxis and the pilot boats there are lots of people yelling on the air. Counted nine times in a three
minute period that one resort called for a taxi. Most of the radio traffic seems to be coming from Harbour Island.

Called again for a mooring in Spanish Wells, but none are available. Another cold front is forecasted for Sunday into Monday so we decided to anchor out tonight and then go into a marina in Spanish Wells on Saturday. Since we aren't able to go ashore on Royal Island we decided to go over to Meeks Patch and anchor. We covered the 4 miles in under an hour and had the anchor down in time for lunch. There is only one other boat here, the storm clouds have cleared, Noah had done his schoolwork and it is 83 degrees. Guess it is time to close down the computer and go swimming!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hatchet Bay Pond, Eleuthera

We're still holed up on a mooring in Hatchet Bay Pond, Eleuthera. Now that I've finally learned to spell Eleuthera, I need to use it more!

Yesterday after school and lunch we ventured into town to see what was here. The guide book paints a dismal picture of Alice Town. We've always been able to find something interesting in any community and this was no exception. The government dock has new piers where it is easy to tie up the dinghy. They even supply mooring balls so you can tie off the stern so the boat doesn't bump against the dock. With only one other cruising boat in the harbor there was no problem finding a spot to tie off.

I was thinking about waiting for lunch at the Harborview Restaurant. Good thing we ate sandwiches aboard because the restaurant is no longer open. The town that borders the pond is Alice Town. Walking up the hill we found a government building and lots of homes under repair. A bar and "take away" restaurant looks like it might be open for dinner. It was humid and in the upper-80's. Cresting the hill we could see the blue and green waters of Exuma Sound. Stopped for water at a nice little park with a couple of picnic tables under palm frond shelters. The beach was in contrast to a sad looking bar and a considerable amount of liter from a party the night before. It looks like the community has seen better days and hasn't yet recovered from the last hurricane. The local school looked well kept and was named P.A. Gibson School. We thought that was coincidental since Noah's principal back in Durham is Mr. Gibson.

Beth and Noah elected to go back to Intuition while I walked West. They met a local kid at the dock and gave him a ride around the harbor in the dinghy. We had said hello to him a couple of times in town as he rode his bike around. School is out for Easter vacation so there are lots of kids wandering about.

The main rode took me past the Lutrapur R/O water plant which appears to be the only employer around. After seeing that the water source is Hatchet Bay, I'm not sure I want to purchase any! A liquor store, grocery and beauty supply share a strip mall and the grocery wasn't open. Walking further I ran into some kids who wanted their picture taken. They were excited to see it on the camera screen. Further along was a poor residential area where the kids disappeared into a big Banyan tree that they use as a clubhouse and playground. Waling back I found more children and one about Noah's age asked me for two dollars. A few minutes later a kid no older than four came up and said "dollar, dollar". I didn't give the kids money, but wished I had some books or pencils or something they might have used. It was the first time I'd been asked for anything by people in the Bahamas. Usually it is "Good Afternoon" or "How are you today?"

Exploring on the way back I found the dirt road that went down to the abandoned marina. A couple of burned out boats, the shell of a concrete building and the rusted rails of a marine railway are all that remain. This area has tremendous potential as a safe harbor with nice ocean beaches within walking distance. I'm afraid it will be a very long time before that potential is realized.

The reason we are here is to hide out from a predicted cold front. We went to bed expecting the winds to pick up after midnight. There was lightning in the distance as we turned in at 2100 and it had rained enough that the decks were clean, so I opened the deck fitting for fresh water and put out the rolled up cloth that acts as a little dam to divert water into the tanks.

Waking up to listen to the weather at 0630 we were thrilled to have completely full water tanks. We were less thrilled to have a completely full dinghy. Water was over the bow compartment so we emptied everything out of there. In doing so, the radio slipped out of the dinghy bag and headed for the bottom in twenty feet of jelly fish filled green water. Since it isn't that waterproof we left it as an offering to the jellies in Hatchet Bay. I don't know how much rain we had, but it must have been more
than six inches. The wind hit a little later than predicted and for a relatively short period of time with a few gusts in the low 30's. It should all be south of us by tomorrow morning.

Noah surprised us after school today by saying he would like to go to Maine on the boat next summer. "Six months on the boat would be better than a year. I liked most of the places on the way up." This is the first time he has expressed any interest in continuing cruising.

Governor's Harbour

Sunday dawned with calm winds and we pulled the anchor at 0830 leaving 23 boats behind in the harbor. By 0857 we rounded Sound Point and dodged occasional coral heads for the next hour. At 1055 we had a fish on the handline and slowed to make it easier to bring in. Guess that was a mistake because we retrieved the line with no fish and no lure. Noah finished "The True Story of Okee the Otter" underway and now wants a pet otter. Judging by how hard he laughed while reading it, we can recommend the book to any nine year old.

By 1237 we were anchored in 15 feet of water just off the beach in Governor's Harbour. After eating lunch we dropped the dinghy and checked the anchor. It was firmly attached -- to a pipe of some sort. We scouted the pipe and it went all the way to the beach and farther out in the bay than we wanted to follow it. With Mark on Intuition(in case we were able to free the anchor and Intuition started dragging), and Beth and Noah in the dinghy, Beth tossed the dinghy anchor out to hold the dinghy over the anchor so we could see to try using the boat hook fully extended to catch the forward crossbar on the anchor. We were able to anchor the dinghy right over the anchor, by catching the same pipe as the main anchor. The boat hook was a few feet too short to reach the anchor, so Noah suggested we put the outboard tiller extension on it to make it reach. Well, it did reach, but with Noah looking thru the window and telling Beth right, left, forward or back, it was no wonder that that too caught on the pipe and when Beth pulled, the tiller extension came up, but the boat hook slowly filled with water and ended up on the bottom, with the hook under the pipe! At least all three things were all clustered together! Time to go back to Intuition and change crew out. Noah stayed aboard Intuition, and Mark was with Beth in the dinghy. Beth was the diver this time and was able to get the boat hook on her second try. The dinghy anchor came up next, and she then tried to take the free end of the dinghy rode down thru the anchor cross bar and use that to pull up on, but she didn't explain her plan clearly to Mark, who was pulling tight on the line, instead of giving it slack to go down and up. Beth called it quits and we then tried a different plan. We freed the anchor by motoring past it and slowly reeling it in with the windlass. Guess we should have tried that first! Reanchored, but weren't able to get the CQR to set. The chartbook warned about poor holding and we decided to take their word and head a little further out. We rounded Levi Island and were greeted by a pod of five dolphins. Taking that as a good omen, we set the hook on the first try just off Toms Rocks. A couple of fly fisherman on the beach and a kayak sliding by made for a very peaceful anchorage as we were the only boat.

This morning we took the dinghy over to Governor's Harbor and tied up at the dock by the government clinic. We can recommend this method of visiting!

We were there before anything opened, so walked over the hill to the Atlantic side. Not knowing where we were going, we stumbled onto the grounds of the old Club Med. It may be redeveloped as French Leave Resort, but will require lots of investment. The beach is beautiful with pinkish sand due to the abundance of conches in the composition of the sand.
Beth saved a small jar to bring home. Met a local travel agent and his son on the beach who had spent some time in Durham. The boys built a sand castle while we talked about the islands and home. Walking back over to town we found that the grocery store was open, but that was about it because Easter Monday is a holiday.

The seawall provided more entertainment than any store could. Thousands of minnows were visible in the clear, shallow water. They were being pursued by all manner of needlefish, jacks, barracuda and even a small Nassau Grouper.

Crossing the causeway to Cupid's Cay we found an old church and the town library, both of which were good picture subjects. The library was closed, but a vacationing German family was on the porch using the free wi-fi. This gave Noah another chance to play with kids for a few minutes.

Heading back to the dock we walked up the hill to visit the Duck Inn. Guidebooks mentioned an orchid garden and they were quite right. After being alerted by his three legged dog, the proprietor was happy to have us visit and invited us to wander the grounds. There were hundreds of orchids in hanging baskets, a cat sunning itself on a deck and great views of the harbor.
We were back at Intuition for lunch and had the anchor up by 1230. Although we could easily have spent another day around picturesque Governor's Harbour, the weather forecast is for another cold front to come through on Tuesday night and there isn't all around protection there. Six knots of wind out of 130 let us motorsail with the Jib up the coast. Although there is no charted coral, we found at least six lines of crab pots. These were the first we've seen in the Bahamas and were reminded of sailing in the Chesapeake. We deployed the hand line with a new Clark Spoon and had a hit within five minutes. Unfortunately the fish took our new lure without even showing himself.

Hatchet Bay Pond is the harbor we chose for protection. Approaching the charted waypoint, rock cliffs jutting out into the the Sound didn't look very hospitable. Noah was assigned the lookout job and found the 90 foot break in the cliff without any problem. We issued a securitay on the radio before passing through and encountered no other traffic. Once inside we picked up a free government mooring and relaxed. Only 15 nm from last night's anchorage, it is nice to know that a safe haven exists on the western side of Eleuthera.

Beth took the dinghy and visited with folks from Virginia Beach on a big Ketch named Marnie. She got the run down on the area and was assured that the moorings are safe. While we were relaxing before dinner, a Bahamas Ferry came in through the cut and headed over to the government dock. They barely fit through the opening. The did NOT announce their arrival on the VHF, or even show up on AIS. Made it seem worthwhile to make the call before traversing the cut.

We expect to be here until the weather blows through, probably sometime Wednesday or Thursday. The harbor looks like it has seen better days and still shows hurricane damage with a few boats washed up on the shore. The marina and marine railway no longer exist. Maybe we will explore Alice Town after school tomorrow.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

More Rock Sound

We were nestled in close to the western shore of Rock Sound, all set for the cold front yesterday and were pleasantly surprised when it didn't pack much of a punch. We didn't see more than 20 kts of wind and that was for only a few minutes in squalls. Even though the front didn't generate much wind, it did move the needle on our water tank as we received about 0.75 inches of rain. 22 boats were here for the front and it wasn't crowded at all.

It was a school and clean-up the boat morning. We relaxed, read and played games in the afternoon. Noah finished the Hardy Boys book we bought in town yesterday and worked more on his wooden boat model. The tugboat "Toad" is just about ready to launch. Did go over to give a photo of their boat to South Paws in a break between the raindrops. They had found a message in a bottle on the beach at Rose's and opened it. The bottle had been dropped into the Atlantic off New York City in April of 2003. We wonder how many times the ocean currents have pushed it to Europe and back.

The two photos above are from in town where we stopped and looked in some local gift shops. The pink building is the local accounting office.

Also had fun listening to the Cruise Ships on the Atlantic Side of the island converse. After hearing them on the radio we turned on the computer and watched the AIS images from three of them slip up the coast on their way back to Fort Lauderdale.

Today the winds filled in from the NE which is, of course, the direction we want to go. With that in mind we decided to stay for another day. George on Trumpeter recommended a deli that cooks jerk chicken and ribs every Saturday. They own an inland farm on the island and cook up fresh meat. Both were hot, spicy and tasty and we have enough for a couple more meals. The Bahamians never skimp on servings. Walked down to the festival park, but nothing was happening yet. Things seem to get going after dark here. Noah did find a dollar a penny and a semi-broken little pendant that plays Christmas tunes when pressed. Real treasures for a nine year old!

Once again, the dinghy dock was a problem. Another boater was at the dock when we went back and said our dinghy had washed up on the beach but someone had brought it back. The bowline we had tied was still intact, so we think someone slipped it off the piling to get their dink and let ours go by mistake. At least they retrieved our dinghy. The dinghy ride back was a little wet as we had to cover the 1.75 miles across the harbor into 15 kts of wind.

Stopped on the way back and introduced ourselves to the crew of the boat anchored behind us. Turns out they are from Denver and are on a six month cruise with a similar plan to ours, possibly leaving the boat in North Carolina. They work as support staff for the US research base in the Antarctic for regular jobs. A little change of pace for them! They had caught a Mahi Mahi on the way in yesterday and shared a steak with us. We'll save it for our holiday dinner tomorrow, possibly in Governor's Harbor.

We bailed 8 gallons of fresh water out of the dinghy this morning before taking off. Beth used it to wash clothes this afternoon, so we have a clean boat, a full pantry and clean clothes.

Received good news while checking email this afternoon. Bud & Dawn have a slip at NW Creek for us in New Bern. We will be able to keep the boat in the same spot where Beth's sister Judy just purchased a house.

We wish everyone a peaceful Easter and Passover holiday.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Rock Sound

Our first full day in Eleuthera we explored Rock Sound. Landing at the dinghy dock by Dingle Motors, we introduced ourselves to Chris Dingle who briefed us on the area. He's a friendly chap that runs a hardware/convenience store/gas station and takes delivery of DHL packages for cruisers. The town is famous for a Blue Hole, so we walked to Blue Hole park where we viewed the large hole of unknown depth. There were lots of fish and the hole is tidal, so it must be connected to the ocean somewhere.

From there we found the local bakery and stocked up on wheat bread. Back at Dingle Motors we called Rose at the Nort' Side Resort for a visit to the Atlantic side of the Island. Rose, the owner, came and picked us up, saving us the 4 mile walk, up hill.

Noah managed to find some kids to play with and we had a nice meal with 9 other cruisers. The beach was beautiful, but we were not the first set of footprints and someone beat Beth to the sea beans. Rose gave us a ride back to town and asked if we wanted to see Tarpum Bay since she had to go there to pick up fish. She gave us the tour and the run down on the local area while stopping at little shops to buy onions, cheese and cabbage. She knew which shops had the best prices so we picked up some supplies as well.

The dock at Tarpum Bay was full of activity, but the big groupers being cleaned were all spoken for. Rose said that a grouper usually goes for about $95. We learned that Parliament was dissolved yesterday. That means elections will be held within 30 days and we can expect lots of speeches.
Getting back to the dinghy dock we found the dink standing up with the motor skeg and bow the only things in the water. We'll remember that Dingle's Dock is for high tide only. Found rocks in the dinghy and after talking with other cruiser's found that local kids toss them from the dock into dinghies. We won't be leaving our dink unattended for long here.

There is a homecoming festival here for Easter weekend and it began Wednesday night. We were anchored just off the park where the festival is being held. Music started at sunset and went on until midnight. The bass notes were vibrating the boat!

Thursday was a serious provisioning day. Learned that a better dinghy dock is a little further north at a (currently closed) restaurant marked by an obvious tiki hut bar. It is close to "The Marketplace," a modern and very well stocked grocery- they even had Hebrew National Kosher Salami- we can't find that in most groceries in the states, unless there is a large Jewish population in the area! Took the cart, two boat bags, two back packs and the insulated bag. Returned with them all full. We then
moved across the harbor for west wind protection for tomorrow's expected front AND to have a quieter night. We will then have to decide if we want to stay for Monday's front, or move to Hatchet Bay for that one. We can see the bottom in 7 ft of water, but that is about the limit of visibility. Checked on the anchor and it is buried so deep that we can only see chain.

Did haircuts on the swim ladder in calm conditions so not much hair made it back into the cockpit. It had been too long since we'd cut Noah's hair and he was having trouble keeping his mask sealed because of his long bangs. We managed to get all the provisions stowed in time for dinner. Enjoyed a pretty sunset and watched some locals fishing with a net. What appeared to be a young boy, jumped in the water to set the net into a big circle. Once the circle closed the older men pulled the net in and
extracted what might have been mullet.

It is Friday morning and the wind is just starting to pick-up and we're getting a light rain with overcast skies. The anchorage went from 6 boats yesterday morning to 19 this morning with at least two more boats on the way in. We're one of the smallest boats here and have anchored in the northwest corner of the bay.

We hope everyone has a good Passover and Easter Weekend.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Crossing the Sound

Cambridge Cay was a wonderful place to spend time. Now that we have been there, we would go back for a frontal passage instead of going between Little Major and Big Major. There is less current and mooring balls along with good holding if the balls are all taken.
We didn't need protection from a front while on this visit. The winds calmed to less than 20 kts and the Island protected us from the East wind. Judy at Exuma Park told us about the "Sea Aquarium" so we set out on Monday to find it and a sunken airplane. Two dinghy mooring floats and a park sign made it easy to find the spot. Slipping over the side we were surrounded by Sargent Majors looking for a handout. There were hundreds of fish - easily the most variety we've seen on the trip. We spent over an hour in the water taking lots of photos and adding new species to our checklist.

Noah made friends with a family visiting their parents on s/v Movin' On. He and the kids visited in the dinghies after snorkeling. Noah towed the youngest around in a clear bottomed kayak, so got his swimming practice in. We found the sunken plane on the way back to the mooring field, but didn't dive on it. It was upside down and didn't have many fish around it. Not as interesting as the plane at Norman's Cay.

Back at Cambridge we took hot solar showers then Beth made Bar Cheese to take to a pot luck. Mailbox Cay was the spot where we all gathered. Really just a sandbar with a park sign and a mailbox where you can leave your mooring fee. Eight boat crews participated and the kids had a great time running around the Cay. They can't get into too much trouble on a sandbar!

We talked with John and Jan on Stella Maris by VHF and decided to cross Exuma Sound together in the morning unless the weather forecast changed dramatically. We were torn between staying longer at this beautiful spot or being able to sail across the sound. The winds are predicted to go light and variable soon, so if we wait then we'd be motoring across.

This morning dawned grey with winds in the mid-teens. Couldn't hear Chris Parker on the SSB until 0650 (he starts at 0630 as does our "official" cruising day) because the propagation has been poor until after sunrise. Anyway, we talked with him directly and he called for 110 at 15 kts with 3 ft seas, so we finished preparations and dropped the mooring pennant at 0825.

Bell Cut was fine passing through at 0840 about an hour before high tide. Rain started shortly after the water became deep enough that our depth sounder couldn't see the bottom any longer. We put up all three sails and ran the engine to help punch through the five foot seas. By 0953 the wind had picked up enough to turn off the motor and enjoy one of the best sails of the year while waving goodbye to the beautiful Exumas. Stella Maris left from ten miles further north and wasn't able to sail due to the wind angle.

The rain stopped and the winds picked up by 1100 so we put the first reef in the main. At 1220 we were heeled at 50 degrees so rolled the 130 Jib back to 100% making the ride more comfortable and increasing our speed from 7.0 to 7.6 kts. Noah sighted land about ten miles out from Powell Point. The closer to Eluethera the more settled the seas became and at 1316 we recorded 8.6 kts for a couple of seconds on the face of a wave.

By the time we reached Point Powell, seven other boats were heading in the same direction. Timed it perfectly (unplanned) so that we arrived at the same time as Stella Maris. It was a little disconcerting that the water depth sounder went from infinity right to 18 feet. Other boats reported the same phenomenon, so there must be a fairly sharp wall as the sound meets the island. We doused sail and turned to motor towards Rock Sound in line with the other boats. Only had to alter course two times from the course line in the Explorer chart book to avoid small coral heads.

Approaching Rock Sound, the first thing that stood out was motion on the shore. There are roads on this island with trucks and school busses. It has been a while since we've seen anything larger than a golf cart. At 1610 we dropped the hook in seven feet of water just off the church in Rock Sound, Eluethera after traveling 46.9 nm through water over 3000 feet deep.

The Stella Maris crew went ashore to explore while we elected to clean up and eat dinner aboard. They are on a schedule and will probably leave in the morning. We plan to explore Rock Sound and do some serious grocery shopping. Don't know how long we'll stay until we find out more about the area.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Compass to Cambridge Cay

Greetings from Cambridge Cay, Exumas

Yesterday we arose to wave good bye to friends on Mustang Sally. It was interesting to watch the large yacht maneuver out of the small basin. They did so in a very professional manner staying as far as possible from other boats while managing to turn 180 degrees.

We shared weather information with new friends on m/v Exodus while watching another big yacht come into the slip next to them. After topping up our water tanks, it was our turn to leave. Rather than backing out of our slip we turned the boat around with lines and headed out past the big yachts in a direction where we have good control. No bow thrusters on our little sailboat!

Motoring out past Mustang Sally (now anchored) we waved as Richard & his family boarded a seaplane to fly home. Winding our way through the shallow sand banks we managed to stay off the bottom on the way out. Our first destination of the day was Bell Island where we rendezvoused with Stella Maris, a Whitby 42 out of Oriental, NC. We'd heard them on the radio and planned to meet up where they were anchored. Although we've boated in the same area of NC for years, the families had never met. They have two kids, so Noah was very happy to meet them. Unfortunately, Robbie had a bad ear ache, so they headed down to Staniel to visit the clinic. John and I sounded the narrow passage off Bell Island at low tide and found 7 feet of water. Stella Maris may catch up with us again in a few days as they are planning to go in the same direction on a similar time table as Intuition.

We pulled up the hook at 1618 and wound our way past the tip of Bell Island into relatively deep water. (Earl - we kept a plot of this little pass for your future use!) On a rising tide we went almost all the way out the cut before rounding the corner into Cambridge Cay where we picked up a park mooring ball at 1705. We had traveled 12 miles to get only 2.9 miles from Compass Cay as the crow flies. We were greeted on the radio by Adagio who promised to come over in the morning to give us the highlights of this, the southernmost anchorage in Exuma Land and Sea Park. After grilling hamburgers we found that our one tomato was sprouting on the inside. We cut it up and threw the chunks overboard where what looked like small 12-18" yellow fin tuna attacked them with gusto.
Winds are subsiding and have been under twenty most of today. We are in the company of six other boats here at Cambridge Cay.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Compass Cay

After enjoying our time at Exuma Land & Sea Park we headed out on Thursday to get fresh water and find some new scenery. Only 13.8 nm south lay the small marina at Compass Cay on a beautiful private island. Several folks had recommended it, so that became our destination. They have good wi-fi here, so today's log has lots of photos.

Upon arriving, Noah met two families visiting from Chicago and struck up an immediate friendship. While Beth headed to the laundry room, we headed to the beach with three other kids.

Even on the East side of the island, the reefs kept the waves from the sound from pounding the beach.

Tucker Rolle, the proprieter here, feeds the local nurse sharks and they hang around the piers. Since they are well fed (we hope), it is a good opportunity to get up close to these amazing creatures.

Noah was hesitant at first (smart kid!) but did come into the water and came to enjoy being able to see the sharks up close. He even let go of dad and swam on his own for about 15 minutes. There are also huge remoras, jacks, a Nassau Grouper and lots of bone fish that came through looking for a free meal.

On Friday a boat docked next to us with a family from Sweden who had a nine year old boy aboard. John and Noah hit it off immediately and we took them on a walk to find the "Bat" cave. We had interesting views of the cliffs and sound, but never did find the infamous cave.

Went swimming under the boat later to make sure the prop and rudder were okay since we bumped a sand bank coming in here. Actually saw more fish under the boat than anywhere else on the trip. There are coral heads under the dock and no fishing is allowed in the marina. This and the fact that most guests feed the fish let the marine life really thrive.

Noah and John met up with yet another nine year old, Richard on Mustang Sally. Turns out Richard had four siblings and it turned into a kids day with r/c boats, swimming to a tiny island and playing with water toys. It helped that Richard is on a big yacht with a crew that was enthusiatstically spraying the kids with water hoses. Noah was invited for dinner and played in the hot tub and watched a movie, coming home way after cruiser's midnight.

Since Noah was having such a good time, we decided to extend our stay through Saturday night. The kids played hard all afternoon. Beth and I were able to go off and explore Rachel's "Bubble Bath" a rock formation at the north end of the island. Here the waves break over rocks on the sound side sending foam and bubbles into a shallow rock pool making a natural bubble bath.

Can't say enough about what a beautiful island this is and how much fun Noah has had with his new friends. He didn't get home until after 1000 last night and it wouldn't surprise me if he tries to stow away on Mustang Sally today. They are leaving to go home to Denver and we are going to explore the southern end of Exuma Park.

You can see more of the island at

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