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May 2006

May 17 - 13

The strong winds of May 16 calmed quickly after sundown.  We were anxious to continue south to see more sights.  We continued our exploration of the Exuma Land and Sea Park by anchoring at Cambridge Cay.  From this anchorage we snorkeled on several reefs including one called the Aquarium, hiked to Bell Rock, and explored underwater caves on Rocky Dundas.  We had to snorkel into the underwater entrance to the caves.  Once inside, you surface into a large open chamber with a sunlight hole in the roof.  There were beautiful stalactites and stalagmites inside the cavern.  We wished for an underwater camera so we could record and share the beauty.

Bell Rock

Upon leaving the park, we were in dire need of gasoline for our dinghy.  We had been using it a lot to explore and had not filled up at our latest opportunity at Highborne Cay.  Our friends from Queen Angel had been nice enough to loan us some gasoline until we could purchase some.  We tried to get gas at Staniel Cay but they were completely out.  After confirming over the radio that they had gasoline available, we set out in the dinghy for Sampson Cay Marina about two miles away.  There was a half gallon remaining in our gas tank when we arrived and filled both our tank and our spare can.  The next day Sampson Cay ran out of gasoline. 

One of the “To Dos” on our list for the cruise was to snorkel the Thunderball Grotto near Staniel Cay where the James Bond film Thunderball was filmed.  This cave also has an underwater entrance but at low tide there are two entrances where you can swim in on the surface with your snorkel out of the water.  We rose early to snorkel the grotto at low slack tide.  Once inside there are two other openings we explored where you have to swim a few feet deep to get in or out.  John had to try them all of course.  There were many large and small fish in the grotto and they were in the habit of being fed.  They were quite aggressive if you had a stale crust of bread in your hand.

We anchored at Black Point Settlement on Great Guana Cay during a rain storm.  (Don’t be confused; there is a Great Guana Cay in the Abacos that we visited earlier and this Great Guana Cay is in the Exumas.  There are so many islands in the Bahamas, the names repeat often.)  After the rain ended, we took a long walk on the island and saw several large termite mounds and numerous sink holes.  Black Point is a quaint Bahamian village.  While visiting Black Point, we did laundry at the clean and convenient laundromat.  We recommend it over either of the laundromats in Georgetown where the washers are dirty and the people are rude. We enjoyed dinner at Lorraine’s Café with Bob and Mary Ann from Queen Angel and Terry and Bob from Gypsy Wind, and Ann visited the nurse at the clinic to get antibiotic treatment for an ear infection.  Clinic visit and prescription were a total cost of $37.  Health care is one of the few things cheaper here than in the U.S.

John had been anxious to catch or spear fish since he left the Exuma Land and Sea Park.  Visits to several reefs and attempts to catch fish while trolling our line during passages were not entirely successful.  Near Normans Pond Cay, John and Bob from Queen Angel found several conchs to supplement our food supplies.  Learning to clean the conch has been frustrating and slow.  1) Make a hole in the shell to cut the tendon.  2) Reach in and pull the conch out by the foot.  3) Trim the conch to leave only white meat.  4) Pound the meat with a hammer to tenderize.   We have made conch salsa and fried conch during the cruise.  The fresh meat is a good reward for a lot of work!

Dolphins at playWhile cruising in the Abacos, we spotted dolphin almost daily.  We had recently realized that we had seen no dolphin since we had been cruising in the Exumas.   On our passage south to Georgetown we were entertained by a dozen dolphins leaping in the air and playing in the bow-wake of our boat.   It’s exciting and reminds us of why we are here.

Georgetown has been our planned most southern port of call on this cruise.  During March at the height of the cruising season, there are 450 boats anchored near Georgetown.  The cruising community organizes many daily activities from potlucks to yoga classes and volleyball.  John was anticipating afternoons full of volleyball at volleyball beach near the Chat ‘n Chill where there are five beach volleyball courts. When we arrived on May 24 there were only about 50 boats near Georgetown and none of the organized cruising activities.  John hung out at the Chat ‘n Chill on Saturday and Sunday afternoon hoping for a volleyball game, but he couldn’t find any interested players.


Bob & Mary Ann

 

We have traveled with our friends Bob and Mary Ann from Queen Angel since we arrived in the Exumas on May 10.  It was great fun for John and Bob to spear fish together and we appreciated their lessons in conch harvesting and cleaning.   We enjoyed sundown together about twice a week while hosting each other on our boats.  Queen Angel was anxious to head back north and meet friends on Andros .  We said our good-byes and hope to see Bob and Mary Ann later this summer when we return to the U.S.

 

 

 

 

May 4 - 16

We left Marsh Harbour on May 4.  For lunch, we stopped at the Sandy Cay Coral Garden in the Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park where we saw beautiful coral formations and many beautiful fish, including two large spotted rays gliding through the water. This was the best snorkeling we had found. While we were snorkeling, a dinghy picked up a mooring on the reef and we recognized our friends Mike and Karen from Chinook Wind. They were anchored nearby and we used this opportunity to say our good-byes to them and to Serenity via the radio. We hope that we can cruise with them again in the near future.

Sunset near Little Harbor

 

 

We anchored off the bight of Great Abaco for good position to exit Little Harbour pass early the next morning. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset and relatively calm night. The anchor was up by 6:20 and we exited Little Harbour pass in smooth waters. The wind was calm and we had little help from our sails during our 60 mile trip south. We had once again prepared for an extended passage (dinghy on deck, jack lines rigged, everything secured below) and again had smooth seas and calm conditions.

 

 

 

 

The Abacos are near Florida and therefore pretty crowded with US cruisers. Eleuthera is more isolated and we saw many fewer boats there and heard a lot less chatter on the VHF radio. There are fewer Bahamians living on the islands we are visiting now also. Our first stop was Dunmore Town on Harbour Island. It reminded both of us of Key West because it was quaint and touristy. We scheduled the stop to be able to celebrate Ann’s birthday in a nice restaurant. We had a great dinner at the Rock House (we highly recommend it if you make it to Harbour Island ) and we enjoyed a great afternoon at Pink Sand beach. The sand really is pink like the inside of a conch shell.

We also attended services at the beautiful Wesley Methodist Church, built in 1843 and were interested to experience the similarities and differences from the United Methodist services that Ann has attended. The Harbor Island anchorage was calm, and we repaired our dinghy leak and restitched the UV protection on our head sail while we were anchored. Before leaving Harbor Island we snorkeled along Devil’s Backbone and saw several large grouper and barracuda.

If you have experience with the ocean, let us know if you have ever seen or heard about anything like this. One evening near sunset, John was sitting in the cockpit looking out over the bay when he saw a large ray jump out of the water.  It went up in a large graceful arc with the water pouring off of its wings until it was about six feet high and then it nosed over and went back into the sea. We have seen rays move in the water but they mostly cruise the bottom very slowly.  We never knew they were capable of swimming fast enough to get that far out of the water. It was one of the most amazing things John has ever seen and a highlight of the trip for him.

We run our generator about two hours a day to keep the freezer cold and we noticed we were getting water in the bilge when the generator was running.  John had to track down the leak and finally found it in the cooling supply hose.  Luckily the hose had enough slack that the split at the end of the hose could be cut off and the repair was completed in less than an hour.  We already had spare engine hoses but we purchased spare generator hoses in Spanish Wells later that day, so we would be better prepared for future repairs.

On May 10, we left Eleuthera and headed further south to the Exuma island chain.  We were headed into the wind all day, so we had little assistance from our sails.  John caught three fish while trolling, and we saw no boats on our trip until we neared Allen’s Cay.  He cleaned the fish on the swim platform behind the boat and dropped the carcasses in the water.  The water is so clear here that we could plainly see two rays and two nurse sharks (with attending remoras) in about twelve feet of water behind the boat cleaning up the fish carcasses.  We ate the fish and fed the sharks so nothing was wasted.

InguanaFrom our anchorage at Allen’s Cay, we took a short dinghy ride to see the iguanas at Leaf Cay. They are about 2-3 feet long and they roam around on the beach. When a dinghy pulls up, they wander down for handouts from the visitors and start fighting over territory. The iguanas were once found throughout the Bahamas but are now only seen on a few islands.

We met Bob and Mary Ann from Queen Angel at Allen’s Cay and went snorkeling and spear fishing with them.  John and Bob had good luck with spear fishing on a large beautiful reef off the northeastern shore of Highborne Cay and we enjoyed a couple of great dinners.  Bob and Mary Ann also treated us to great conch salsa after Bob found a large conch while anchoring.

 

 

Shroud Cay was our first stop in the Exuma Land and Sea Park . Water colors, caves and rock formations were beautiful. We took our dinghies into a long tidal creek running through mangroves in the center of the island. The creek took us to a beautiful beach on the eastern shore of the island. Unfortunately, we made the trip during low tide, which required us to drag the dinghy and motor over several dry sand banks. Thanks to Mary Ann and Bob for their assistance in dragging our dinghy.

Ann & John at Shroud

 

Warderick Wells Cay is Exuma Land and Sea Park headquarters and was our next stop.  The reefs and snorkeling around Warderick Wells have been disappointing.   Due to some strong winds, we are staying on a mooring for a few days until the weather calms down.   It’s blowing 30 knots as we write this so we are not planning to go out.  This kind of weather gives us a chance to update the logs, clean up the boat and the dinghy and do a few maintenance projects.