The Search For Bright Waters

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bright Eyes in Peril

We enjoyed three calm days at Normans Cay.  We got some grub at the Normans Cay Beach Club.  It was expensive of course but much needed.

We snorkeled a wrecked plane that was really cool.  At high tide you can see the top portion of the plane and it doesn't look like much but under the water it is an entire 75 foot long plane with wings and fish swimming all around it.  We took pics with the disposable under water camera so you will have to wait to see those.

On Tuesday the 28th we left Normas heading for Highborne Cay.  We had to motor around the corals and through some shoals and then our engine decided to quit on us.  We have had a small oil leaking problem for awhile and it finally got worse.  We have been adding oil to the engine pretty consistently to keep it happy.  This time when the engine died we threw out the anchor in shallow water and then added oil and started it back up.  It ran for and bit and then conked out again.

We decided to sail up to Highborne for possible help.  We made it pretty close until one of our turns required us to go upwind.  We are absolutely horrible at sailing upwind.  We can never get more than a perpendicular angle with the wind on either side.  We even broke out the Sailing For Dummies book for help and couldn't get upwind.   So we anchored in a relatively safe area and looked up engine mechanic info.

Our desired destination of Eluethera did not offer much but Nassau had an advertisement.  So that's where we decided to go.

Highborne Cay Marina was supposed to give the weather everyday at 7:30am so we got up then to listen but they said they couldn't get the weather.  That began the longest day ever.

We used our manual windlass to crank up 120ft of anchor rode against the wind. That was no fun.  We then sailed in the direction of Nassau by 8:30am.

We were headed directly down wind which we also have trouble sailing.  We were able to gibe most the way pretty well.  Around 1pm we had to cross the Yellow Banks which is a shallower area with a lot of coral heads scattered around.  On the way down we went around it but this time we decided to go through it because of our slow sailing.

Of course right before we get to the Yellow Banks the sky turns dark and storm clouds loom over us.  We were smart enough to put on our life jackets but not foul weather gear.  As we enter the coral garden chilly winds hit us.  We reduced our sail to slow down as the winds picked up and then it started pouring raining.  Christine laid on the cockpit seat trying to cover up with small pillows while I shivered at the helm.  We were both just wearing our bathing suits and life jackets.

Eventually Christine remembered not all our hatches were closed so she went below to close them.  The only damage was half our bed was soaking wet (my half of the bed).  She came back with jackets for us.  That made it bearable in the cold stinging rain.  The storm lasted an hour and a half as we navigated through the shallow corals.  The corals were much scarier than the storm which was really just uncomfortable compared to the big waves we've been through other times.

And then around 2:30pm the storm finally let up and we came out of the Yellow Banks safely.  However the storm took all the wind with it and soon our sails were luffing and then laying like curtains.  Originally our Garmin told us our arrival time was 5pm, now it was saying 5am the next morning.  When we had only 4 miles to get in the Nassau Harbor we were basically drifting with the water at less than 1 mph.  

We drifted our way into the harbor around 8pm and then the current took a hold of us.  We lowered the Genoa and left up the main sail for direction.  Our goal was to anchor in the first anchorage before the bridges.  However we underestimated the current when we turned into the wind to drop the main sail and by the time we got the anchor down we were swinging close to a charter boat docked.

Night had fallen by now and we had to re-anchor.  Instead of cranking up the anchor one link at a time like before we figured out how to let out some of the Genoa and sail back and forth upwind on the anchor as I pulled it up.  But once we had the anchor up we had our familiar problem of not being able to sail upwind so we couldn't get a better anchorage spot.

That meant we had to try the next anchorage down, on the other side of the two bridges.  So Christine went on the bow with her headset on and a fog horn and I used the half Genoa and the current to take us through the bridges.  It was a lot scarier before than after.  No other boats came and we made it through with ease.  

We then pulled into the next anchorage which was where we anchored the first time we came to Nassau.  However there was a huge barge sitting at the entrance making our life miserable.  We couldn't sail across and anchor right away because the current was still pushing us so we had to cut through the barge and another boat and anchor behind the barge.  We got the anchor down just in time to give us enough distance between us and the boat behind us.  

So at 10pm we could finally get off the boat.  We quickly headed to the Green Parrot, our favorite lodge and now you know the days story.

While we are here we plan to find a mechanic and hopefully get the engine in a better mood.  And then back over to Eluethera.  Wish us luck.

Again sorry for the lack of pics but grabbing the camera was far from our minds most of the day.

I drew this picture to depict us in the storm

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Woods and Water Trails, Shroud Cay

Surprise!  We found internet at Normans Cay.  Thank you Linksys!

Finishing up our Warderick Wells Cay visit we went on a dangerous hike! 

Here is our boat on it's first ever mooring ball.  It took a little figuring out but we got it.  That is Emerald Rock under the sun.

After a short dinghy to the beach we found this hidden entrance to a trail.  Christine is in this pic already hiking up the little cliff.

There were several rat/wombat like things scurrying around in the trees.  We found out later they are Bahamas only native mammal, the Hutia.

We passed lots of ruins that just looked like rocks stacked up but are from the 1800s.  This was someones house a long time ago.

The trail was rocky and you had to watch out for these really deep holes.  We don't know how they were formed but they were deep and creepy.

We passed signs warning us of the "Touch Me Not" flower and "Poison Wood"

Then we found a ruins wall leading us to another beach.  How pleasant.  Actually the whole hike was fun and not really dangerous at all.

This beach had a curious floating house on the water.  Maybe that's what we will buy next.

The next day we had to move off the mooring and anchored again.  The next morning our trusty Claw anchor decided to take the day off and we woke to find that we had dragged some 200 feet into shoal.  We don't think we were on it long because we didn't notice any bumping till we got up.

After a few attempts of using the engine and the anchor windlass to pull us off we realized we were stuck good and had to call the Park.  They sent out a boat that pulled us off pretty easily and we headed off to Shroud Cay

After a nice sail north we arrived at Shroud Cay at high tide and decided to give that river trail another attempt.  On the way down the Exumas we tried to kayak the river at low tide and failed miserably.

This time we had another 2 feet under us and took the 3.5hp dinghy!

Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

It was a lot nicer this time and a very scenic ride.

We are glad we gave up kayaking last time because it was a long, windy ride, about 25 minutes in the dinghy.

But eventually we found the secrete beach on the other side and it was sure worth it.  The whole area was beautiful so we broke out the camera for a Scopes like shooting.

This dark spot was a ocean hole.  It was shallow all around it but the hole is supposed to go down deep!

At the beach we climbed a hill for some high shots. Here's the river we took to get there.

The next day we went to our favorite beach on the north side.  We just spent the day reading, running, and relaxing until the tide came up and kicked us out.

Shroud Cay is one of our favorite islands.  So pretty!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lionfish and Sharks and Pigs, O my

Saturday the 11th we arrived back at one of our favorite spots, Staniel Cay!

And we just happened to walk in during a Lionfish competition.  Lionfish are small fish covered in poisonous barbs.  Because of this they have no natural predators and are over populated.  The Staniel Cay Divers sponsored an event to help fish them.  

Two teams caught over a hundred Lionfish that day with spears.  We arrived for the good part, the music and Lionfish cooking competition.

As people were gutting the Lionfish a bunch of sharks came to feast on the scraps.  They were circling all around the fish table and really big.  We have never seen so many sharks even at the Nassau Aquarium.

The band was an acoustic duo that played a lot of songs we liked so that was really cool.  For the cooking competition 5 chefs made 5 distinct dishes and everyone was given a plate to taste and vote.  There was a onion and pepper fish, jelly sauce fish, curry fish, teriayki fish, and our favorite and the winner, a sweet and sour fish.  Mmmmm they were all served over rice and delicious.  They were also selling Lionfish cookbooks and serving free drinks.  The winners of the competitions received over $3500 in total prizes.

Staniel Cay Divers sure know how to throw a party!

We fed our left over rice to these hungry fish.

As we mentioned before, our underwater camera never came into George Town.  So we bought a disposable underwater camera at Staniel Cay to take pictures of Thunderball Grotto.  We need to get them developed so we still can't post pictures of the amazing, fish filled cave.  We hope the pics turn out.

We left Staniel Cay Tuesday and stopped just around the corner at Big Majors, home of the pigs!

We noticed Thunderball Grotto and Big Majors were a lot more crowded this time with visitors, but this piggy must have slept through his last meal because he was hungry!

As soon as we got to the beach he came running out and would sit with his mouth open waiting for us to drop Graham Crackers in.

Then as we tried to feed the other pigs he got a little rude.  He would follow us and nudge his nose into us and  once he even bit me and then Christine!  It was just a nibble on the thigh with no teeth but it was still surprising.  Most the pigs were so well behaved.

Me in a stare down with fatty.

Our old friend baby piggy. 

Then as we were about to leave, the trouble maker thought we were holding out on him and tried to jump in our dinghy!  I had a cracker in my hand and had to yell for him a couple times before he got out, although we think he was stuck for a second.

We said goodbye to the pigs and continued north.

Our next few destinations were just beachy islands we decided to anchor at instead of skipping them.

We stopped at Thomas Cay which had an odd make shift hut that said "Pipe Creek Yacht Club"

From inside the "Yacht Club". There's our boat.

We found a few conch laced trails that led into the jungle island.

We crossed to the other side after a short safari.

Here's our boat from the top of the jungle with our kayaks landed on the beach to the left.

Next we kayaked over to Joe Cay!

It was a small cay that was mostly sand and had a few tiki huts in the middle.

Welcome to my island!

And Mrs. Joe

We then found out why it was so sandy with huts and a single dock in the middle.  It was private.  Kicked off our on Cay, shucks.

We kayaked back to the boat, kinda.  We actually got stuck in the strong channel current going out to sea but managed to land on the other side of Thomas Cay that we found earlier.  We then had to carry our kayaks through the safari and then kayaked back to the boat.  It was quite the work out for two lazy beach bums.

From Thomas Cay we anchored at Pipe Cay and then Belle Island near Cambridge Cay.  We attempted to anchor at Cambridge but the mooring balls took up most of the anchorage and we didn't know how to obtain a mooring.  (We later found out that there is a drop box on the beach that you just put $15 in for a mooring)

From Belle Island we slowly sailed to Warderick Wells Cay which is where the Exuma Land and Sea Park HQ is and Boo Boo Hill.  

This is where we currently are.  We hiked Boo Boo Hill again and saw our spray painted log with our name on it still there.  This time it was high tide and we had to cross a small 2 foot high stream.  Then we did a little snorkeling around Emerald Rock.

We went to the main office and after some thought coughed up the $35 for a mooring ball and one day of internet.  It had been 8 days since we had internet and we don't want anyone worrying out there :)

Next we will visit a few more Exuma Cays before hopping over to Eluethera by July 1st which is about when we should have internet again.