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Saturday, March 31, 2007

16 MAR thru 31 MAR 07: Black Point, Great Guana Cay, Exumas

GPS Position: 24°06'.025N: 76°24'.166W

It’s the 16th and the storm front hasn’t hit Cape Eleuthera yet, so we took the dinghy and went snorkeling. The water was really rough, however, so we came into the sheltered “creeks” and did some snorkeling there. Then, we walked the beach looking for shells and sea beans. Found shells, but NO BEANS! Then we went on a visit to the Island School, which is an American run school that accepts US students for a 3-month course of study. I wish they’d had something like this when I was a kid.

The front finally ripped through last night and with it gone, Beso and us pulled out of Cape Eleuthera and headed towards Cat Island. I was able to put up the sails and we cruised on south to Cat Island at 7.4 kts, smooth as silk.

We arrived at Hawks Nest Resort, on the south end of Cat Island, around 1600. We rented a slip for the next two nights and prepared to wait out another round of wind and rain. The rates were $2.50 per ft. per night, plus 50¢ per gallon for water, plus $15.00 per night for 30-amp power. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but the place looked abandon, was pretty rundown and there were no ammenities. If it wasn’t for the weather, we’d have left and anchored out somewhere.We left Hawks Nest on the 20th and BESO led the way as we followed the three-hour route to New Bight, Cat Island. We arrived around 1100 hrs and anchored in 10 feet of water on a soft sand bottom, in a beautiful half-moon shaped bay.

We launched the dinghy and met up with Chip & Kay on the beach and walked around the town of New Bight. We went to a grocery and found where the local bakery was located (great pies, sweet rolls and breads) and learned about the Hermitage, built by a monk on top of Mount Alvernia, the highest point in the entire Bahamas. Then it was back to the boat and, as we drifted off to sleep, the sound of rake & scrape and calypso music drifted out to the boat from shore. Now this is what cruising the islands is all about.

The next three days were spent enjoying the town of New Bight and the local people. We all hiked to the top of Mount Alvernia and took in The Hermitage. What an incredible piece of work. We hiked back down and ate lunch at the Blue Bird Restaurant and had wonderful local fare. At night, we’d dinghy in and eat dinner at Monique’s, a take-away on the beach, where she and her husband serve the finest conch and lobster salad you’ll find anywhere, with ice-cold Kalik beer.

All good things must come to an end, however, and on the 24th, we weighed anchor and followed BESO out of New Bight, heading for the anchorage off of Georgetown, Exuma. The trip over was pretty rough due to the wind and wave direction, but we finally arrived off of Stocking Island around 1730 hrs and made our way to an area called Hamburger Beach. As far as the eye could see, there were boats at anchor. More than 500 sailboats, trawlers, tugs and mega-yachts were crammed in off of the island like they were trapped in some kind of a confused nautical parking lot. We’d never seen anything like it.

The next four days were spent visiting the party areas on Stocking Island. Hamburger Beach, Volleyball Beach and Sand Dollar Beach have something going on about 16 hours a day. Each morning, the "Cruiser’s Net" broadcasts the days activities on the VHF radio and the constant noise of outboard motors throught the day attests to the fact that someone is always going to a party somewhere.

We also made the 2 mile dinghy trip into Georgetown and toured the city. We expected a typical Bahamian town, but instead, found a town that could have been in the US or Canada and had almost no “island charm.” Americans and Canadians were everywhere and it was difficult to find a true Bahamian until you walked away from the business district to the outskirts of town.

Before we could leave the Georgetown area, we had to refuel the boat. The only way to accomplish this was to make repeated trips into Georgetown and fill our 5 gallon diesel cans, 20 gallons at a time, come back and empty them into the boat and go back for more. Three trips later, we were fueled and ready to go on the next leg of our journey.

We were underway, with about 100 other boats, on the 29th and making or way behind Beso towards the islands to the northwest. We stayed on the “inside” of the Exuma chain and the water conditions are not to bad. We leave
boat after boat behind as we go further north and the “fleet” thins to no more than three or four boats heading towards Great Guana Cay. To say the water is beautiful is a gross understatement.

We made the harbor at Black Point around 1715 hrs and set the anchor without any problems at all. Over the radio, Beso and us hear that the place to eat in town is Loraine’s Restaurant. We made reservations via radio and dinghied in by 1830 hours. The food here is great, cracked conch, fresh fish, chicken and pork chops. The beer is extremely cold and self-served on the honor system. All in all, a great experience in island dining, We also find out there is a Laundromat in town and it’s spotless with new machines. Tomorrow is laundry day.

We went into town and did laundry and the Laundromat was like new. If your load is finished and you’re not there, the owner takes it out and folds it for you. When you get back, it’s all ready to go.

We went and took pictures of the town and visited with two men who were building hand laid wooden boats for the Family Island Regatta. The craftsmanship is extraordinary! Then we walked along the beach to the north and hiked further north to the east/west channel. We then went back into town, bought some things in the grocery and finally dinghied back to the boat.

We'll probably spend another day here and then head for our next destination, Big Major's Spot, near Staniel Cay, Exuma.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

01 MAR thru 15 MAR 07: Cape Eleuthera, South Eleuthera, Bahamas

GPS Position: 24°50'.126N: 76°20'.607W

Today was cleaning and shopping day. Kim and I washed and cleaned the entire boat (inside and out) and Kim did three or four loads of laundry at the marina Laundromat. It may cost a few bucks, but you can do so much more laundry in a lot less time than on board. In the afternoon, we went up to the Super Value store and got some much needed groceries for the coming week. What a difference we saw between the prices in Nassau and the prices in the Abacos.

Today, the 2nd, we’re going back into town and pick up our son, Patrick, and his girlfriend, Kristen, at the airport. We rode the city transit system to downtown Nassau where we met up with Gary Symonette again and he carried us out towards Cable Beach and the airport to get Patrick and Kristen. Of course, we had to make a side trip to the church where Anna Nichole Smith’s funeral service was being held and make an attempt at going to the burial. There were too many cars, however, and we turned around for the airport to escape becoming hopelessly ensnarled in traffic.

The kids got through customs around 1430 hrs (their flight arrived at 1315) and we were there to greet them. Gary took us all back to the marina and Patrickand Kristen stored their stuff and changed into shorts and T-ee’s. Patrick also brought a bunch of parts for the generator, so maybe we'll have power for the boat. We spent the night touring Atlantis, on Paradise Island, playing the slots, eating at Johnny Rocket’s, shopping in all of the specialty stores and visiting the shark aquarium. It was a lot of fun.

Everyone was up around 0700 EST and we got underway, leaving Nassau Harbour. The sea was pretty smooth and the kids got to see flying fish and porpoise. We were able to raise a sail for awhile, so the passage was pretty nice for a change. We arrived at Current around 1400 hrs and unloaded all of the stuff we’d gotten in the US for Rosie and, in only two dinghy trips, carried it into shore.

We had diner with Perry and Rosie and it was really great. Perry leaves in the morning to go on his last fishing trip of the season, so it was good that he got to see Patrick, his Godson, before he left. Rosie isn’t feeling too well. It may be the flu, so we’re not getting too close.

The next day, I began work on the generator and Next Generation had sent the correct parts for making the repair. I set the pulley with Loctite #290 to lock the bushing and pulley onto the shaft. After 6 hours of curing, the generator runs without failure of the pulley or bushing. We have power!!!

Over the next few days, we toured Eleuthera, harbour Island and Spanish Wells; went snorkeling and saw a rare Hawksbill Turtle. We had a great time and each day was full and interesting. But as always, our time together seemed way to short and, before we knew it, it was time for the kids to leave us.

On the 9th, we got up really early to get the kids to the airport. The weather was crappy and the waves in the cut were really choppy. We made the airport on time, however, and it was really sad to see the kids leave. I miss having Patrick around!

We went back to Current, contacted Chip and Kay and made arrangements to get together at noon and Kim and I took them down island to see the sights. We went all the way to Governor’s Harbour and everywhere in between. It was a really nice day with really nice people.

On the 14th, we departed our anchorage off N. Beach around 0930 EDST and headed through the Current Cut towards Gregory Town. The wind forced us to change our course towards Hatchet Bay to get into the lee of Eleuthera. The seas were 4 to 6 feet across the Bight of Eleuthera, as we wound our way towards Hatchet Bay.

We decided to pull into Hatchet Bay Harbour, as it’s the only secure anchorage between Current and Cape Eleuthera. The entrance is only 90 ft. wide and, from the sea, looks to be about three feet wide. We fought the swells, however, and shot through the entrance into Hatchet Bay. Once inside, there is little holding on the harbour bottom due to the sea grass there. But, there are about twelve moorings in the harbour that are free to the taking. The trick is that there are no lines on the moorings, so one has to hook on as best as one can to secure a mooring site. This took us about 20 minutes but we were finally set for the night.

Kim and I were up and ready to go and finally had the right conditions around 0825, at which point we pulled in our mooring line and headed for the Hatchet Bay Cut at full steam. The cut seemed even narrower going out of the harbour than coming in and there was a westerly swell that almost beat us back to the inside. We burst through, however, without incident and are on our way to the Cape of Eleuthera.

As we neared Palmetto Point, we heard BESO on the radio. Chip and Kay Marsh had been anchored there, heard us and called. We are going to stay with them for a while and see where the wind takes us. But, we’re still going to Cape Eleuthera, but the Exumas may have to wait as Chip and Kay want to go to Cat Island and, what the heck, Kim and I would like to see it too. We’ll discuss it in the Cape and make a decision there as to what to do and where to go.

The Cape Eleuthera Harbour is beautiful. Soon, there will be electricity and water at the slips, but for now, it’s just a safe place to tie up the boat and ride out the wind. With everything snug and secure, we’re off to explore the area around the harbour. We’ll stay here until the storm front moves through and it’s safe to travel again.