Redwings Round the World

The Bahamas: Exuma Islands

17 - 30 April 2001

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April 17 - Conception Island to Georgetown, Great Exuma

Colleen - We had a sleepy 6:10 am start, pulling anchor just as the sun was rising.  We wanted to set off before the mid-day winds built up, as we would be sailing directly into them.  We motored without any sail.  Aaron caught a small Spanish Mackerel for dinner.  The cats enjoyed eating the scraps after he finished cleaning it.

Near mid-day, we encountered a squall full of rain.  At first we were pleased, happy for the fresh water to wash off weeks of salt build up on the boat.  As the rains continued we had had enough.  Aaron would not put on his raincoat, and huddled under the dodger wet and cold, looking up every few minutes to see if there were any ships.  Visibility was limited.  

All of a sudden lighting blasted and thunder cracked close by.  We were both startled, not having any memory of being so close to lightning.  Aaron went and shut off most electronics just in case, and rather foolishly we unplugged the VHF and SSB.

20 minutes later, Aaron looked up to find a large fishing boat steaming by us only about 100 meters away.  We were both shocked.  We could have easily collided with it, and without our VHF on, it may have been trying to contact us to avoid a collision.  What a lucky call.  A little freaked out, I put my rain coat on and told Aaron to go below to monitor the radar.  With the protection of a raincoat, though a bit miserable, it was fine to stand full time watch looking out exposed to the rain.

The squall eventually passed and we saw the North Channel rocks marking he entrance to Georgetown.  We had a smooth entrance through the harbor using way points given to us by Sea Gypsy to manuver around the reefs and shallow spots in the harbor.  We dropped anchor off of Monument beach.  We were both tired from waking up early.  But wanted to go to town.

Aaron - So we quickly dumped the dingy in and took off for the one mile dingy ride across the bay to George Town.  Wow, what a cruiser infrastructure.  A little lagoon inside the inner harbor with dingy docks for various businesses.  Colleen found the number for a vet and organized a visit for later in the day, while I got a new prop for the outboard (its slipping again - the one we fixed in Antigua).  Quick inventory of the stores and telecom options (few) and back to the dingy to box up the cats for their trip to the vet.

We've finally settled on names for the cats: Manuel and Polly.  Our previous cats Basil and Sybil were named after the lead Faulty Towers characters - Manuel and Polly were the main supporting characters.  Manuel also fits as "he" is a Hispanic cat.   We tried Barco and Vela ("sail" and "boat" in Spanish - also Barco is a Barker and Vela [pronunced "bella"] is a pretty girl), but these names did not stick.

Anyway, the kittens were not thrilled with the dingy trip, but bucked up pretty well.  The vet lived across the bay right on the water so we dingied right up to his house.  This is a vet location for animals of the rich and famous!  Dr. D is a retired vet from Michigan who operates a part-time practice.  The received their second round of vaccinations and were de-wormed again.  The vet confirmed they still have worms.

Back at the boat, both cats were very sluggish and had hurty stomachs from the strong worm medcine.

April 18 - Georgetown

Aaron - George Town is a cruisers mecca.  Many boats make it only this far coming from Florida and spend months here.  There are scores of protected clear water anchorages, many social activities (volleyball, softball, BBQ's etc.), and good services ashore (laundry, stores, free water).  There are "only" about 200 boats here now, but about a month ago, there were closer to 500 (people are moving back north now).

Into town in the morning to try to get on-line.  Quel Horror!  The lines are just too slow to hold a conncection no matter how slow I adjust the modem.  No interenet cafe.  Only one computer in a hotel and they charge 50 cents a minuite for a slow connection - takes five minuites just to get to your Hotmail page!  Guess no uploading of these pages till we get to the US.

Big fast-moving cold front on its way.  Wind expected to come NE 25-30.  We are in a good spot, and when we arrived back at the boat, the number of other boats in the anchorage had doubled and was rising fast.  We've got boats just in front and behind us.  Hope there is no dragging.

The front hit as we went to bed and the wind howled through the rigging all night.

April 19 - Georgetown

Aaron - The day dawned cloudy and windy.  Everyone is hunkered down in their boats waiting for the weather to improve.  Its a major adventure to dingy to town and no one is going on passage.  Hibernation.

We took the dingy in to the beach on Stocking Island (we are anchored behind it) and took a walk along the ridge overlooking the anchorage and down to the beach on the windward side.  Angry seas broke violently on the sandy beach.  Beautiful.  No one around.  Nice to get some excercise.

We then donned full foul weather gear and braved the trip to town.  Thriller!  Glad to have the new prop.  My butt is sore from slapping on the dingy seat as we lift off and crash over waves.

Spent the afternoon trying to send faxes and call the US.  No e-mail working in town.  Phone lines down half the time.  Very expensive and frustrating.

The cats have rebounded well from their trip to the vet.  Initially they were in pain from the shot and worm medicine, but now they are growing faster than ever and Polly is getting strong fast and is playing a lot more.  She is still really bony, but hopefully with the worms purged she will develop quickly now.  They are getting pretty comfortable now hanging around outside at night and have the run of the boat.

April 20 - Georgetown

Aaron - Another hibernation day.  20-30 knots of wind and rainy outside.  Did not bother to go into town.  What are we reduced to?  Reading and listening to the VHF radio and following everyone around and listening to their conversations (under the auspices of getting weather info).  One guy came up and called out on the VHF and asked if there was anyone in the anchorage who knew anything about the Spanish Civil War.  We followed him up when somebody responded and participated in a lengthy discussion with several boats about the war and its implications for modern-day Spain.  That was the big excitement for today. 

April 21 - Georgetown

Aaron - "Moonraker" called in on the VHF during the morning net that they had a spinning prop problem on an 8 HP outboard and did anyone have any spares / wisdom.  I said we had just dealt with the problem and had our old prop which might be good enough for them to use to at least get by for awhile.  We dingied over and had coffee and discussed dingy props (how interesting) and got a fill of info on what to expect from here to the Chesapeake.  They are cruising with two boys aged 11 and 12 and have a four year old daughter as well.

We then converged on Joe Cool with the Easter Dinner gang from Conception Island (Sambuca II and Sea Gypsy) for more coffee and pancakes.  Heart is racing by now with the caffeine.  Socializing on the boats is the main activity while we are all stuck here by the winds unable to get out through the cuts to the open sea and hampered from getting to town in the dingy by the chop in the harbor.

We had to go in though to pick up Molly, our guest (a college friend of Colleen's), so off we went in full rain gear and bathing suits with several garbage bags in hand to wrap Molly's gear.  Should have packed swim goggles as well.  I could barely keep my eyes open as we were constantly doused with waves on the way to town.

Rather than spend US$25 each way for a taxi to the airport, we decided to thumb-it and were picked up as soon as out thumbs went out.  One ride, two, and a last by a taxi (for free - "Taxi 12" - most popular on the island) right to the airport.  People are so nice here and willing to give rides, don't know how the taxis make it.  Molly's flight arrived on time and we again sucesfully hitched the 14 miles back to town.

After another semi-submerged 2 mile dingy ride back to Redwings we got Molly settled in to her quarters.  I had hoped to get out of here tomorrow as we need to have her in Nassau by May 1st (10 days from now) and as I want to spend as much time in the Exumas (beautiful chain of islands all the way up to Nassau) as possible, but its still blowing 20-30 and the seas are way up in the cuts.  Weather is the main focus of conversation for all in the anchorage.

In the evening, we headed over to Oz for drinks.  They are leaving tomorrow for Charlestown SC.  Even though the weather is tough now, it's supposed to improve by the time they hit the Gulf Stream (1 1/2 days from now) and with an 87 foot boat, they will be a lot more comfortable going out in this stuff than we would.  Nice to see them again and looking forward to connecting with them in Maine.

April 22 - Georgetown

Aaron - Went to "Beach Church".  Hmmmm.  Pretty boring.  Re-confirmed my aversion to getting organized religion.  Nice folks though and something different....  Four-year-old Meagan from Moonraker and friend Mira from Cool Breezes came by to visit cats as well as parents from Moonraker.  Driping wet.  All packed into Redwings for coco while the cats tried to hide from the kids....  That was the day's big excitement.  Weather still windy and seas big - scary to go out cut.  Wait till Tuesday at least to leave. 10 foot seas out front forecast over the next 24 hours on the Tropical Prediction Center chart (NMG).  That was enough to convince me we should try to make the best of it here for now.

April 23 - Georgetown

Aaron - Into town to make calls, do-email, get newspapers, shop, dingy gas etc. There is only one place in town offering a PC with internet access, and they closed down the service for the week due to the coming Bahama boat sailing regatta.  Go figure.  The connection is horrible anyway and about $1.00 per minuite.

I bought a pole spear (for fish) and am really excited to give it a try.  Only pole spears and "Hawiian Slings" are legal for spear fishing in the Bahamas and only snorkeling gear can be used (no diving).  A pole spear is basically a long (7 foot or so) pole with a point and barb on the end and a loop of surgical tubing at the other end.  The hunter puts the tubing between his thumb and forefinger and streaches it tight taking a grip further down the pole.  He then has to get the point 1-2 feet away from the target and let go.  Sounds look good sport and another way to get food.  I know I am gonna love it.  Unfortuneately, spear fishing is off limits in Georgetown Harbor so I'll have to wait till we get further down the Exumas.

In the afternoon, I got the dive gear out and Colleen and Molly grabbed masks and snorkels and we headed to Hurricane Hole Zero with the crew of May-Britt, Rasmus and Kerstin, for a blue hole dive and cave dive.  We met Rasmus and Kerstin in Mayaguana briefly.  They are a young married couple from Denmark and Norway respectively, and are delivering May-Britt from the Bahamas to New York for their Danish-American friend Robert.

There are several hurricane holes (fully protected anchorages - land all around) behind the Volleyball Beach anchorage.  The furthers one back is Hole Zero and on the bottom, is another type of hole - a hole in the bottom that leads to a tunnel that leads back out under the island and out to sea somewhere.  What a fantastic dive!  The hole (on the bottom - the blue water hole that is) was clearly visible just 20 feet below the surface and was surrounded by fish and coral life.  As we neared the entrance, a large barracuda followed us down and I looked up and saw him cruising right towards Rasums' head from behind him.  I motioned for Rasmus to turn to greet his friend face to face.  As we descended into the hole against the gentle out flowing current, we were engulfed in fish.  We worked our way down to the bottom of the hole (where it turned off into the darkness) 90 feet below the surface and just held on and looked up at the fish in the sun-lit aquamarine blue tube above us - really cool.

Gotta be careful though.  The current must be flowing out, otherwise you can get sucked in.  Apparently last year, a dad and his two 14 year old daughters came down here, were sucked in, and never found.  Horrible.

After the "blue hole" we tried the small cave near by.  Lots of fish and Rasumus and I followed a rope down into the cave for awhile, but then the current started tugging us is a little so we quickly exited.  Fun day.  We plan to do another "blue hole" dive tomorrow in Red Hook bay as it looks like the weather will still be bad for traveling.  Forecast is still 20-25 from the NE.

April 23 - Farmer's Cay

Notes - Woke up and wind was only 15 knots.  Sunny.  Seemed that we have Wednesday's forecast weather today!  All cruisers reporting on 4003 net at 0700 above us reporting similar light winds so... should we go?  No.  Well yes, why not.  Threw all wet stuff down, quickly cleaned, told May-Britt change of plan, and left.  Others waiting behind for yet better weather.  May-Britt decided to follow us.  Beautiful sail to Farmers Cay in 10-15 knots on the beam.  Made 6-7 knots under full sail.  

Caught 5 pound Big Eye tuna after one hour and 15 pound Dorado after two!  Dinner (and lunch, and dinner...) Made it into cut no problem.  Anchored and then re-anchored in deeper water.  Lots of current.  Worried about cats falling in.  They are starting to do spaz runs at night.  Beatuful.  BBQ fish on May-Britt.  Yumm.

April 24 - Farmer's Cay

Notes - Dingied into "yacht club" for fuel and a bit of water.  Walked over whole island.  Not much to see, but very cute.  Ate fish sandwichs, went snorlkeling in area with May Britt.  Caught conchs, speared fish, saw sharks (reef and nurse), cool.  Brought rest of fish, new fish, and conchs to Ocean Cabin.  Talked with Terry and pals.  Guys cleaned and skinned conch's for beer.  Had great, but expensive, dinner there.

April 25 - Staniel Cay

Notes - AH and May Britt did drift dive through cut in am and then quickly got underway for Staniel Cay.  On way out, touched bottom.  Nice sail under genoa alone.  As approaching, huge dark storm clouds on horizon came close quickly.  Lightening.  Furled sails and motored in - ready for major pouring , but never came.  Great easy anchorage with limited current.  Spent afternoon on Redwings with May-Britt gabbing, eating, and drinking.

April 26 - Staniel Cay

Aaron - Headed off with the crew of May-Britt to go snorkeling in Thunderball cave at 1000.  Apparently, scenes from the James Bond movie Thunderball and also from the movie Splash (Daryl Hannah as the mermaid movie) were filmed here.  WOW.  Amazing spot.  Probably the best snorkel I have ever done.  Thunderball is an small limestone island that is hollow with several "caves" entering into it several feet below the water.  Light comes in through the "roof" and other caves.  Its teeming with fish and coral.  We took lots of pictures with our disposeable underwater camera.  Hope they come out.  Anyone heading to the Exumas this is a don't miss!

We then headed off to explore two submerged plane wrecks (again, easy snorkeling in 5-10 feet of water), and watched a large nurse shark under one.

After a quick walking tour of the island and its "supermarkets" (one room huts with rows of canned goods - tin of beans is US$2!) we headed back to the boat for lunch.

I spent the afternoon (4 to 7 pm) spear fishing.  I was bound and determined to get three fish for dinner, but could only manage two small (10 inch trout-sized) squirrel fish (little red guys with big eyes).  I really enjoyed the hunt though.  No way would I otherwise spend three hours paddling around.  It's good excercise and encourages longer and closer observation of reef life.  With a pole spear and snorkeling gear only, the fish have a better chance than the hunter.  I must have taken 100 shots.  The bigger fish are smart and stay just out of range and quickly hide inside coral holes whenever I look at them.  Saw a large nurse shark cruising back and forth by "my" hunting grounds (in fact, "its" hunting grounds - but they mostly eat conch and crabs though so I was not too concerned).

Poached the fish in white wine and spices.  Pretty good chow.  Neither I nor the cats (girls did not try them) died, so I guess we can add squirrel fish to the menu of edibles.

April 29 - Norman's Cay

Aaron - We said our goodbyes to May-Britt and left Staniel Cay at 0930 with 15-20 knots of wind from NE and a 2X reef in the main and 75% of the genoa rolled out.  Had a great sail in low seas (swell blocked by the island chain of the Exumas to the East of us) with the wind just forward of beam.  We smoked along under sunny skies at 7-8 knots soaring over coral and sand clearly visible through the transparent water just 5-10 feet under the keel (10-15 feet deep).  Takes some getting used to!  At one point, we got a bit too close to shore and quickly found ourselves in 8 feet of water doing 8 knots towards some nasty looking coral heads.  I quickly yelled to Colleen and Molly to get the *#&$! genoa in to slow us down and headed out to sea.  I was sure we were gonna hit, but we did not and got back into the "deep" (20 foot) water without incident.

We dropped the hook in 10 feet of water off the SW corner of Norman's Cay (and old drug running island base) at 1430 and quickly settled in.  Colleen and Molly went ashore to explore for the afternoon, I vegged out, cleaned up, and plotted our course for Nassau.

A brutally competitive game of hearts followed dinner and scared Molly off from playing cards with us again.

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Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved by Aaron Henderson and Colleen Duggan