Monthly Archives: February 2018

Through the Exumas

After a couple of nights rolling in West Bay, we grabbed an opportunity to move across to Highbourne Cay.  We were very fortunate in that we saw several squalls to the right and left of us but we had a great run straight through the middle, all under sail.

We dropped anchor just north of the entrance to the marina, just as the rain started.  We spent a comfortable couple of days here, and Moray managed to get some spearfishing in.  He brought back an amberjack which we had for dinner, but what he really wanted to get was a lobster!

The forecast was for the wind to clock round once again, so we decided to relocate to Lobster Cay.  After pulling up the anchor, we took a quick detour to Allen’s Cay to see the famous iguanas.  Last year, we had gone straight to Highbourne Cay and then south, so we had missed them.  The Cay itself was very pretty, and in different weather would have been a lovely place to spend a couple of days.  However, just as we got there, the rain started, and the iguanas took cover!  Ah well, we got a video so it’s all good!

Next we headed down to anchor at Lobster Cay.  Once Sol Purpose was secure, Moray headed off to do some spearfishing.  Lobster Cay lived up to its name, and a happy Moray came back with his first lobster of the season.  I had already started preparing dinner, so we put it in the freezer for another day.

We had planned to stay at Lobster Cay for a couple of days, before continuing south, but for the first time in a long time, we had desperate need for an internet connection.  We usually manage fine without one, but we had a Skype chat set up which we couldn’t miss, so after a safe but not too comfortable night, we headed back to Highbourne Cay and had our very important Skype call.

Now that everything is settled, I am able to put this in the blog!  We are well aware of how lucky we are to be able to live this life, so we had planned on doing volunteer work while on our travels.  It hasn’t been as easy as we thought to find the type of placement that we would both be happy doing, in a place we both want to visit, and without breaking our budget (who knew that “volunteering” could cost so much!).  After a lot of research, we found what we thought fit the bill perfectly, and applied – hence the “interview” on Skype.  Everything went well, so this summer, we will be helping out at Lanta Animal Welfare Center, in Koh Lanta, Thailand!  The center rescues, treats and finds homes for the stray dogs and cats on the island.  We will have a couple of weeks traveling around the country and then will be in Koh Lanta for almost three months.  We have rented a little apartment to stay in near the center.  I am so excited – both for the opportunity to visit Thailand for the first time (for me) and for the chance to spend some time with cats, as I am so missing having mine around.

OK, that will all be covered in a future blog entry, so let’s get back to the Bahamas!  When we woke up, the weather was perfect for a day of sailing with the Code 0, so we headed out for Normans Cay.  As soon as we unfurled the sail and switched off the engine, there was a knocking noise.  Moray investigated and figured out that it was the propeller.  It appeared that the cutlass bearing strut was a little loose, so rather than risk damage to the prop, we had to switch the motor back on and furl the Code 0.  Our lovely sailing window was a bust, but we motor sailed with the genoa, and arrived in good time at Normans Cay.  Instead of the anchorage we had used last year, we settled in near the beach on the West side of the island.  The water was quite shallow and perfectly clear, so as Moray dropped the mantus anchor, he was happy to see it disappear in a puff of sand!  There was no need to dive the anchor to check that it would hold, but as we were not too far off the beach, I jumped in and swam to shore and back.  Moray went snorkeling, tightened the cutlass bearing strut and saw a couple of eels, but not much else.

The next morning, we took the dinghy to the beach and walked around to the other side.  We wanted to see whether any progress had been made on the marina that was under construction when we were there before.  Basically, the answer is no!  There are now entrances cut through, but these are closed off as there is no infrastructure in the marina for the boats.  There is a new dock to tie off to, for large boats, which I assume stop to eat and drink at MacDuffs.  We had planned to revisit MacDuffs, as it was the first place we had had a Kalik in 2017, but after hearing that they have put the price up to $10 per beer, we decided to give it a miss!

After having another swim to the shore and back in the crystal clear water, we headed out towards Shroud Cay.  We planned to use the same anchorage as last year, in close to the entrance to the mangroves.  Unfortunately, we didn’t read the tide tables correctly, and were dangerously close to running aground, so we dropped the anchor where we were, and settled in for the night.  The next morning, as soon as the tide started to rise, we moved in to where we wanted to be and re-anchored.  That done, we had a leisurely breakfast, while we waited until it was almost high tide.  That is the only time it is possible to get the dinghy across a sandbar, into the mangroves, and then through to Camp Driftwood.  We had a fun half hour or so, playing in the cut, being swept into the beach, then running round and doing it all over again!  Once the tide turned, we jumped in the dinghy and took a gentle trip through the mangroves.  It was beautiful, but we only saw one turtle, which was a little disappointing.   We love this anchorage, because most people seem to stay at the other end of the island, on or near the mooring balls.  We could see their masts, but we were the only boat in our anchorage, and it almost feels like your own private island!

As soon as the tide was high enough the next morning, we made our way down to Warderick Wells.  We anchored and dinghied over to the park office, to make a reservation for a mooring ball for the following evening.  Then we went over to one of the snorkel sites and spent an hour or so with an eagle ray and a lemon shark, as well as all the usual suspects.  Spectacular!  We took a look at a couple of other sites, but there wasn’t much there, so we headed back to Sol Purpose.  Our boat was the only one on our side of the anchorage, so once again, we had peace and quiet for watching the sunset.

Next morning, we pulled up anchor bright and early to make it out through the cut to get to the south mooring filed at Hog Cay.  Once there, we radioed the park office to let her know which mooring ball we had picked up.  There appeared to have been some confusion the previous day when we made the reservation, as the ranger thought we had meant we wanted to be at Emerald Rock mooring field.  She told us that the Hog Cay mooring balls were no longer maintained, so she suggested that we dive the mooring just to be sure.  There is no anchoring allowed there because of potential damage to the rare stromatalite formations, so that would not be an option for us if the mooring didn’t hold.  Moray jumped in and took a look, and confirmed that everything looked fine, especially as the winds were not going to be strong that night.  Once secured, we headed over to Hog Cay to hike.  We beached the dinghy, found a spot with a lovely view out over the Sound, and ate a picnic lunch.  Then we donned our hiking boots and set off along the ironshore to walk the full length of the island.  First of all, we headed up to the northernmost tip, where there is a cairn.  In true Scottish tradition, Moray added a stone to the cairn!  We then headed along the trail towards the south.  The views were fantastic, and we even found a blow hole, which sounded just like an old man snoring (actually it was kind of creepy!).

We made it all the way to the southernmost tip of the island, before heading back.  Hog Cay is not very big, but the combination of the heat and the ironshore made it feel like quite a trek.

Back at Sol Purpose, we both jumped in for a swim to cool off.  Moray’s pet spotted eagle ray seemed to have followed us round from yesterday’s snorkel site, so he grabbed the GoPro and took a video.

Once again, we had the privilege of being the only people in the mooring field.  While we love being around people, the feeling of being the only people to experience a particularly wonderful sunset or sunrise is amazing!

The next morning saw us heading back to O’Brien’s Cay and the Sea Aquarium, which we had enjoyed so much the previous year.

From there, Moray snorkeled the sunken plane which would make a good dive site at slack tide due to the 2 deep channels that feed the area.  Quite good fish life because of this.

We snorkeled for an hour or so, then headed back to Sol Purpose.  Our run of bad luck was apparently not over – as Moray was pulling up to Sol Purpose, the bolt which allows our outboard motor to tilt, snapped.  So now we are without wind power, and possibly a means of getting to shore 😦  We pulled the dinghy and motor back out of the water and secured them, before pulling up anchor and heading to Pipe Cay, which is where we planned to ride out the next weather front.  We arrived just before sunset, and were surprised to see so few boats in such a protected anchorage.  During our trip, we heard several people calling the Exumas Land and Sea Park, so we assume that they filled up the moorings, rather than anchor.  Moray started work on seeing if he could fix the outboard.  Over the course of the three days that we were waiting out the weather front, he managed to unseize/drill out the rusted bolt and remove it.  He found a replacement part on eBay and ordered that, so that we could pick that up in George Town, along with the replacement wind generator parts.  He made a temporary fix, using 2 shorter bolts.  It’s not perfect, but it should work until we get the new part, if we are careful.

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Both ends of the sheared bolt seized in the outboard tilting mechanism

After three days of fixing motors, reading and generally relaxing, we grabbed a break in the weather and headed carefully through the shallows down to Staniel Cay.  We saw lots of boats anchored at Big Majors, but very few at Thunderball Grotto, which we prefer because it is so much closer to access shopping etc.  Especially with a dodgy outboard motor!  At last we were able to get rid of some bags of trash – the flies were beginning to arrive, which is never good!  We were excited at the thought of being able to grocery shop for the first time in over a month, which was our plan for the next day.  Not so fast!  As we got ready for bed, the toilet decided it no longer wanted to flush.  Not an acceptable situation in a house, but in a 40 foot boat with a not-so-reliable dinghy motor, definitely not acceptable!  So first thing the next morning, instead of our grocery run, Moray had to take the toilet and sanitation hose run apart, literally… so gross 😛  The blockage was found and cleared – that’s all the details needed!  Then, of course, showers!  You will be glad to know that we have no pictures of that 🙂

Finally, we went to shore and dropped off a month’s worth of laundry, including the “curry comforter” before heading to the grocery store.  While we have plenty of canned and frozen food, it was so nice to have fresh vegetables, milk and eggs!

That evening, we headed to Staniel Cay Yacht Club, to have a couple of beers and some conch/grouper appetizers.  We chatted with Mike and Sarah, and their guest Amy, from Intrepid.  We then all headed to Intrepid to play Mexican Train before we headed home.

The next day, we noticed another boat arrive, searching for a good spot to anchor.  The tide was on its way out, and pretty soon we realized that the new arrival was on the bottom.  Mike and Moray went over in their dinghies to try to help out, but the boat wouldn’t budge.  As the boat was beginning to heel more and more, the crew, along with Mike and Moray, decided to go snorkeling until the tide lifted her enough to move.  It worked out perfectly – they were all happy to snorkel, I got to sunbathe on the boat, and the “little red boat” was eventually moved somewhere deeper.

Our next stop was to be Little Farmers Cay for the 5F’s weekend.   We decided to drop the hydro-generator in the water, before pulling the dinghy into the davits.  With that running, and the solar panels, we were able to run the watermaker en route, even though we were sailing!  I also thought it would be a good day to practice manual steering under sail, so that we wouldn’t need the autopilot.  I had a few blips, but for the most part, I kept us going in the right direction!  There weren’t as many boats as we had been expecting, so we had our pick of anchoring spots.  That night we went to Ty’s for dinner.  There we met Greg and Jodi, from Moon Pie.  They are first year cruisers and seem to be having a wonderful time.  They are taking their time and checking out all the secluded spots that we love too!

Now that we were out of the Land and Sea Park, Moray wanted to do some fishing, but the current was too strong.  We watched the cruiser’s race, while other boats arrived and anchored, among them Intrepid and “little red boat”, which we soon learned is actually called Quintessence!  Around 4pm, we headed over to the yacht club for the cruisers’ welcome party.  We met up again with Bill & Gayle and Mike and Sarah, and were introduced to Ben and Kristine from Quintessence.  It was a fun evening, but ended on a slightly sour note for me.  Flip flops and walking on gravel in the dark don’t make for a good outcome.  I turned my ankle badly so we had to make our way slowly back to the dinghy.  We hadn’t made a good job of beaching the dinghy, so poor Moray had to swim out to get it!  Ah well, we eventually made it home safely.

I woke the next morning to a bruised, swollen, painful ankle, so sat with it up on a pile of cushions while we watched the set up for the racing.  Then we headed out in the dinghy and rafted up alongside Intrepid and Quintessence’s dinghies to watch the races.

The next day, the gang (Mike, Ben and Moray) went spearfishing and came back with a lionfish (for Mike) and a lobster (for Ben).  I had just put some fresh biscuits in the oven when Ben called and invited everyone over to share the lobster and some fish he had caught previously.  He grilled up the fish, and the other two boats provided salads and biscuits.  It was delicious – we are definitely living the life!

The regatta finished on Saturday, but we stuck around on Sunday, because Ty’s Bar & Grill throws a great Superbowl party, which of course we attended!

The partying over, it was now time to get down to some serious sailing/fishing!  We headed down to Musha Cay, followed closely by Intrepid, Quintessence and Catsaway.  We dropped anchor in Musha Cay, right in front of the beach.  The water was so clear and calm, I dropped in for a swim, to try to relieve my sore ankle a little, before we all dinghied round to the next island, where Sarah and I sat on the beach, while the others went snorkeling/spearfishing.  Moray had a battle of wills with a lobster, but the lobster won, I’m afraid.

By this time, Moray was getting a little frustrated at his lack of success with spearfishing this year.  He decided to get up just before dawn, and head back round to the little island to try his hand again.  After an hour or so, he came back with a good sized lobster, and a lionfish, which he took over to Mike.  [Morays Notes:  I had got in the water just before the sun came up and swam with 4 spotted eagle rays, 2 reef sharks, 2 turtles and a nurse shark.  It was fantastic :)].  They all then decided to go fishing so he went out with them again.  I wasn’t there, so this is all third-hand, but my understanding is that he got two more lobster and then went back in, a little way away from the others.  They were alerted by him yelling “I need a boat over here, now!”  They rushed over to him and he lifted the pole spear, which was bending like a fishing rod, out of the water with a huge hogfish on it.  The reason for the urgency, apart from the fact that it was heavy and he didn’t want to lose it, was the fact that a curious shark was slowly making its way towards him!  Fish and hunter both made it into the boat safely, and an absolutely beaming Moray presented me with the 10lb fish!

The next morning, the other boats decided to head to Rudder Cut Cay, to snorkel the Mermaid statue.  We decided to give that a miss and instead took a quick run down to Lee Stocking Island.  We had missed this spot last year, so we wanted to get there this time.  There were already quite a few boats there, but we found a spot and got settled.  Moray went to look for good snorkeling spots, but found the current to be too strong.  Lee Stocking Island used to be the home of the Perry Institute for Marine Science, but it abruptly closed down a few years ago and the island is now deserted.  There is some talk that it has been purchased and will be developed into an eco-resort, but we didn’t see much evidence of that as yet!  I strapped up my ankle in walking boots – what a great look in hot weather! – and we took a walk round the island.  It is like a ghost town, with the buildings all still there but completely empty.  There are pools for the fish research, and pens for animals, but all abandoned.  We walked along a couple of beautiful beaches, and then down the runway, before heading back to the boat.

There was now yet another weather front approaching.  There were a couple more places we wanted to see, but the winds would make these uncomfortable at the very least, so we decided to head straight to Georgetown.  We could be safe there, get some provisions and maybe even pick up the spare parts we had ordered.  We picked up the anchor and started heading towards the cut, but realized that our timing wasn’t great and that it was a bad time to try to go through.  So we went back, dropped anchor for a couple of hours and waited for the tide to turn, before making another attempt.  This time it was fine, and we had a great sail down to Georgetown.  We dropped anchor just in front of Chat ‘n Chill, next to – would you believe it – Intrepid and Quintessence!

Georgetown is summer camp for adults!  Every morning there is yoga and aquarobics, every afternoon there is volleyball, and there are always people around to chat to or to help when needed.  Of course, our spare parts haven’t yet arrived so while we are here we will be spending our days chilling, Moray playing volleyball, me chatting with other people on the beach.  My ankle is still bothering me, so it’s also a good opportunity to just nurse it, so that later in the trip, I will be able to dive.  One thing we do a lot of in Georgetown is socialize.  With all the lobster Moray had caught while fishing with the other guys, I made Thai lobster curry for dinner for Intrepid, Quintessence and Duchess.  We managed to get 8 people around our table!  It was a fun evening, and thanks to Mike, Sarah, Ben, Kristine, Joyce and Matt for not only helping to catch the lobster but for enjoying it with us.

GeorgeTown 004

from left to right, Sarah, Mike, Kristine, Ben, Me, Moray, Matt and Joyce

After several phone calls and emails with DHL, our wind generator parts arrived in Georgetown.  It was also the day that the propane guy was in town.  So we moved Sol Purpose across the harbour to town, and Moray headed in to get, propane, gas/petrol for the dinghy and the wind generator parts.  He managed to get the petrol and the parts, but unfortunately, it appears that the o-ring in our propane tank had worn through, making it impossible to fill.  Ah well, that’s why we have two!

We took Sol Purpose back over to Chat ‘n Chill and were able to tuck into a little spot, much closer to the beach.  That was great as it made for a much smoother night.  Another reason for a much better night was that Moray fitted the replacement parts and now we could use the wind to charge the batteries.  Yay!

We had missed a few islands on the way down to Georgetown, so we decided to head back north for a few days.  After a spirited sail, we dropped anchor at Black Cay, near the north end of Great Exuma.  This is an uninhabited island, with a couple of beautiful beaches, crystal clear turquoise water and very few other boats!  After the hustle and bustle of Georgetown, it was nice to chill out for a few days.  Moray settled into his routine of heading out at slack tide to spearfish, while I read.  We also took advantage of the lack of dinghies heading back and forth to swim, which was wonderful.

Moray was not having much luck getting fish or lobster, and felt that he was failing in his role as hunter-gatherer!  So he decided to try to get a coconut instead.  As you can see from the video, it’s just as well that there are grocery stores in Georgetown!!!

On Saturday, we took the dinghy to White Cay, to visit the swimming pigs that live there.  They are very tame, as they are fed by all the visitors, but that meant they are quite happy to search around inside your dinghy for food!  Moray managed to get some great pictures of the piglets though.

From there, we headed across to Exuma Point on Great Exuma.  Every Saturday, they have an all-you-can-eat buffet, with cracked conch, grouper fingers, chicken wings, ribs etc. etc.  They even have their own version of Mack (for our Waterford friends).

The weather forecast once again gave us a little cause for concern, so we headed back to Georgetown and managed to tuck close in to Chat ‘n Chill again.  Moray got back into the routine of afternoon volleyball, and I relaxed on board or on the beach.

We went to trivia night at St Francis (our first time there) and along with Bruce & Kay from Laura Belle, won second place – bottle of wine per boat.

The winds started to pick up yesterday, and we had some fun and games in the harbour.  One catamaran had been moved a couple of days earlier from anchor to a mooring ball, as the owners had flown home for a short visit.  Around midday, we heard a call go out for assistance.  The mooring ball had snapped from it’s base and the catamaran had taken off on its own.  Moray jumped in the dinghy and headed towards it, as we were very close.  He and about 11 others first of all had to get on to the cat to disentangle it from another boat, which it was now dragging along for the ride.  Then they had to figure out the anchor locker etc and get the anchor down and secure.  As they had to do all this manually, it took a couple of attempts, but eventually, everything was secured.  Quite a lot of excitement, but it shows once again, what a great community this is.  The weather wasn’t brilliant, and the situation could have been dangerous, but they worked together and kept all people and boats safe.  Well done, guys!

This morning we braved the choppy waters to head over to Georgetown, so that Moray could go to the softball practice, and I could get off the boat for a little while.  I even got to go to a grocery store!  The supply boat arrived this morning, so we were a bit early for the fresh vegetables, but we got everything else we wanted.

The winds are once again not co-operating with our plans, so we are just taking it one day at a time right now.  I’m not sure when we will be moving so I will sign off for now and say, watch this space!