Saturday, December 1st
Hawksbill Cay, Exumas
It's hard to believe it's December 1st. That means
we've been under way for almost three months. Since we arrived in the
Exumas just over a week ago time has seemed to slow down considerably.
It's undoubtedly because we have come almost to a standstill pace-wise. Go
south three miles, spend two days, go south two miles spend three days, etc.
The weather has been amazing with no cold fronts to run from. I'm sure the
Bahamian "winter" will come find us down the road but not today.
Many of those who spend the entire winter in George Town are taking advantage of
the mild conditions to head straight south as quickly as their boats will carry
them. We're hoping we can dawdle a bit longer in the less populated areas
before we make our way south as well.
Today we moved all the way to the south anchorage at Hawksbill Cay. Approximately one mile as the crow flies. We packed a picnic lunch and headed for a path that purportedly takes you to the southern Sound beach. This was most definitely a path, marked with cairns and everything. There was a very wide section in the middle of the Island which was covered with very sharp low-lying rocks. If you fell or even stubbed your toe there would be lots of blood. After some careful footwork we found ourselves at the much sought after Sound-side beach. It was long and beautiful, though a bit rough for swimming. We spent several hours walking its length in solitude.
When we returned to the Banks side we went for a swim then stopped to visit a boat that had arrived in our absence. Sagano, a 34' sailboat from Fort Lauderdale, had quite a crew aboard. A couple, the mother-in-law, two kids under four as well as a one year old yellow lab and a cat. They were headed to Puerto Rico. I promise never again to complain about lack of space.
This being the weekend there is no news to be had on Bahamian radio. During the week we are able to listen to ZNS from Nassau. It gets us caught up daily on Caribbean news from the BBC as well as the local Bahamian news. The news is really a wonderful slice of Bahamian life. It runs the gamut from reports on work stoppages to what conventions are in town, who's on trial for what, what high school sporting events are being held that evening, to my favorite, community announcements. Community announcements include lists of who needs to contact what government agency, where power is currently out, where you can pay your utility bills (always listed as "the usual time and place") and, of course, the obits. The obits are no small matter. The name of the deceased is followed by the date and time of the various pertinent gatherings, the officiants, as well as the mention, by name, of every single surviving relative the deceased possesses.
Cheesy beans and rice for dinner.
Sunday, December 2nd
Hawksbill Cay, Exumas
No movement today. All work, no play. Roger changed the oil while I sewed a bag to hold the dinghy anchor. The anchor has been thrashing around in the bottom of the dinghy since we started to use it when we arrived in the Exumas. With any luck this bag will keep the lethal little item out of harms way. In anticipation of our trip to Warderick Wells tomorrow I painted "Shango" on a piece of driftwood we found on the beach yesterday. All we had handy in the way of paint was fluorescent spray paint and fingernail polish. Since our piece of driftwood was on the small side I opted for the polish approach. It turned out well if a bit diminutive. We'll call it understated. The weather continues to be spectacular.
Monday, December 3rd
Warderick Wells, Exuma
We moved all of about fourteen miles today, arriving at Warderick Wells by noon. We had made reservations for two nights on a mooring in the north anchorage which is nestled in between the northwest end of Warderick Wells Cay and Narrow Water Cay. It's a beautiful spot with a narrow strip of deep water sandwiched between two shallows. The Park Headquarters overlooks the anchorage and provides a variety of information, trail maps, guide books, t-shirts and wifi access. Warderick Wells is a favorite stop for many cruisers because of the hiking, snorkeling, the protected anchorage and yes, the wifi.
Roger got hooked up to the internet for the first time since Miami, taking care of a variety of things you never used to be able to take care of easily from a boat. We still have long lapses when we don't have access but when it is available it makes certain chores a whole lot easier. I took advantage of the windless day and took the kayak out for a paddle. Warderick Wells has several areas with coral heads, patch reefs and soft coral. Gliding over these spots in a kayak is really neat. Your draft is negligible so you don't have to worry about hitting the coral and if you position yourself between the wind and the coral you can stop the ripples on the surface allowing for great viewing as you drift back. It was a really enjoyable afternoon. Internet access provided the Captain with a night of Patriots highlights from Sunday's game.
Tuesday, December 4th
Warderick Wells, Exuma
Today was our hike up to BooBoo Hill. BooBoo Hill is, as you might suspect, a hill on Warderick Wells. At the top cruisers leave little mementos of their visit. These days, in a nod to a healthier environment, the mementos are limited to driftwood with boat names carved or painted on them. In the past all manner of flotsam was hauled up the hill with boat names painted on them. Decrepit outboard engines, broken boat potties, hats, pants, even underwear. A certain amount of the humor has been lost since the change has been implemented but I guess it looks a bit less like a dump then it used to.
There is quite an array of hailing ports moored around us at Warderick Wells. Behind us is a lobster boat from Halifax, Nova Scotia and behind them are two boats from Colorado. There is a boat from Rhode Island and one from Florida and a half dozen from Quebec and Ontario. There is even a boat from Switzerland. An eclectic mix
We are beginning to hear the first rumblings of a snarky long term weather forecast. The Caribbean Weather Center has begun predicting a week of strong high pressure (read: strong wind) followed by a couple of cold fronts. It is now December 4th and Roger flies out of George Town on the 22nd. Hanging out behind the Exumas for two weeks of bad weather would leave us one week to make the dash outside on the Sound to George Town. Hoping that you'll get a good weather window in a one week timeframe isn't crazy but it might be somewhat anxiety provoking. During our last trip we arrived in George Town with two days to spare before Roger's flight. We are not really eager to do that again. Do we stay or do we scoot south in the last several days of good weather??? We are in a quandary since there are several more places we wanted to spend time before heading down. Hmmm...
Wednesday, December 5th
Sandy Cay, Exuma
The weather forecast for today included wind swinging around to the west. West is not an ideal direction for hanging out on the back of the Exumas since they face west. You need to work your way around the back of a little piece of something to get protection. We noodled with the chart and decided to squeak in behind Sandy Cay off of Sampson Cay. I don't think it was one of the more traditional hidey holes but it worked for us. We found ourselves anchored by shortly after two. It was a pretty nice spot but we weren't tempted to explore due to a squall or two which were passing overhead. From our vantage point we had a tiny view of any southbound vessels, several of which we watched careen by in the squalls. At one point Roger pointed out a big ketch passing by in the distance. At just about the same time the VHF came to life and we heard the hail "Different Drummer, Different Drummer this is Eleanor M". Roger's head, accompanied by binoculars swung back to the "big ketch" passing by and lo and behold it was Eleanor M from Newburyport. When Eleanor M received no response from their call to Different Drummer we cut in and hailed Eleanor M. Needless to say they were very surprised to encounter us. We hadn't communicated since we crossed paths (from afar) in south Georgia/ North Florida. They had spent the previous evening behind Highborne Cay after an overnight from Grand Bahama. We invited them to join us and they did.
Eleanor M had yet to inflate their dinghy since coming from Grand Bahama Island so we headed over to their boat for a catch-up session. Most of the news was good, some was bad. Skip had broken two ribs on the way into Georgia but was mending nicely. Jay & Debra on Jadera have decided to leave their boat in Charleston for the winter and return home to spend time with Jay's ailing Dad. That's sad news since we were looking forward to seeing them. It turns out that Skip & Cherylle are taking advantage of the last of the good weather and are heading to George Town tomorrow. It was now time for us to stop vacillating. Do we head out with Eleanor M tomorrow or do we cross our fingers and hope a weather window opens up shortly before Christmas? We decided that having tried the last minute arrival last time that perhaps we'd try the somewhat more leisurely arrival this time around. We were a go for a Thursday morning departure From Sandy Cay to George Town, Great Exuma.
Thursday, December 6th
George Town, Great Exuma
In order to make the 60+/- miles from Sandy Cay to George Town you need to leave pretty early in the morning. "Civil twilight" as Skip called it. Eleanor M was anchored behind us so we waited for their "anchor's up" signal and followed them out of our little nook. Eleanor M is a somewhat larger boat with a somewhat larger engine than Shango. We were really trucking as we followed, chart in hand, as Eleanor M took her familiar path toward Dotham Cut. As I might have mentioned previously, our last run to George Town six years ago was cut a bit short, time-wise. We were stuck for a great long while in Black Point adjacent to Dotham Cut. In one ill-timed attempt to exit out onto the Sound we left during a tide which was somewhat less than slack and were quickly schooled on the error or our ways when we managed to break the gooseneck on the boom as we aborted our attempt. This time we were facing the dreaded Dotham Cut with under five knots of wind and with it blowing in the same direction as the minimal incoming seas. Much better. It's still a sort of scary looking landscape but way less scary than last time. After making our way successfully into the Sound Eleanor M adopted the coastal route for optimum fishing, while we took up the "as the crow flies" route to try to make the shortest shot possible. Needless to say, 0 fish and many hours later, we reconnected at the Conch Cay Cut at the mouth of Elizabeth Harbour, at exactly the same time. Once again, with a cautious eye on the chart we followed the ever experienced Eleanor M to Honeymoon Beach. She knows just where to cut those corners!
By mid afternoon we were tucked into the spot where we will remain through New Years. This early arrival will allow us to work on some boat projects while we have access to marine and other supplies in George Town. Once Roger returns from his New England Christmas Shango will get organized for her continued journey south. Since the pace around here is pretty slow and our routine doesn't vary a great deal from day to day we'll leave the logs for now. We'll probably add more of Roger's pictures which will be way more interesting than our exploits in and around George Town. Everyone have a great holiday season and we'll reconnect after the New Year!