Tues. Jan. 11, 2011 (Week 15, Day 99): Destination: Little Farmers Cay to Monument Beach, Stocking Island, George Town area Departure: 0705 hrs. Arrival: 1515 hrs. Mileage: 54.63 SM/47.5 NM Weather: partly cloudy, partly sunny, warm about 25C & hazy; sometimes appeared that it might rain Winds: SE 8-10K, seas on Exuma Sound (Atlantic) variable at 3-4 ft. at times then 1-2 ft. & pleasant swells of about 2 ft.; prediction of a prolonged front followed by a trough from NE at 20-25K & possible squalls with 30-35K lasting till now Mon. & perhaps Tues.
A night of interrupted sleep; anticipation of run out on the ocean tomorrow? The SE winds during the night would increase briefly as well as the waves then diminish. Chris Parker came in poorly for the first part of his broadcast so we missed that SSB transmission; sounds if the unpleasant weather front is extended. As much as we did not want to spend an extended period time in George Town only having to arrive a few days before Jan. 21 when the Morrows have friends arriving, we felt it best to try for a secure anchorage there & not Lee Stocking Island as previously planned. Weather is always the deciding factor especially in this area of the Bahamas where there are very few spots with all directional protection. With a Batelco Tower in front of me, I phoned Mom prior to departure. We ran through Little Farmers Cay Cut at 0733 hrs. without any problems. We motored most of the way as the wind was directly on our nose with a slight shift early afternoon when were able to roll out some jenny. Why not main & all the jenny with barely 10K winds was my question? I just dug my nose into my novel. The Morrows anchored off Monument Beach of Stocking Island in Stocking Harbour (east side) rather than Red Shanks Anchorage off Crab Cay about 10 mi. further south since we were so far behind; tomorrow we hope to relocate there. We cautiously exited Exuma Sound & entered Stocking Harbour via the Conch Cay Cut, avoiding reefs, breakers & shallows to Simons Point Waypoint then Goat Cay Waypoint through the deeper channel towards the anchorage field. The sight of hundreds of masts stretched as far as the eye could see. We had to make certain that we did not anchor in the shipping lane. In 10 ft. we put out 80 ft. of chain. It was time for a stiff martini as I was having a melancholy day. Clouds for the third night obscured a sunset but there was semblance of a pinkish sky afterwards. Supper= beef stir fry with rice. Reading, journal entry then bed. There were so many more island lights & mast/anchor lights than we were used to. Nevertheless there were stars, a hazy near half moon in the sky & an east wind keeping the wind gen whirling tonight.
FYI: George Town dominates the southern Exumas; (1) end & turn around point, or (2) launch pad for voyage to the Caribbean, or (3) winter or summer haven for sometimes 300 boaters + 100 more regatta week. It does not have a harbour but instead a 9X1 NM wide strip of water separates the mainland of Great Exuma Island & the 2 east barrier islands ie Stocking Island & Stocking Harbour to the north & Elizabeth Island & Elizabeth Harbour to the south. Shelter is found on one side or the other but not all the time, & is exposed to prevailing SE winds. Stocking & Elizabeth Harbour are essentially a continuance of each other. Shoal areas, rocks & reefs are scattered around + dredged hollows. George Town offers all services.
Anchorages: (1) off Stocking Island clear of the harbour fairway ie Monument Beach, Hamburger Beach Club--> dock & path to ocean beach, Volleyball Beach -->off 1st basin with ocean beach access, daily volleyball games, meetings & classes, Sand Dollar Beach --> spectacular crescent beach & coral heads for snorkeling (2) linked Stocking Island basins ie inside of basin #1 inside of sandspit, basin #2 (mooring balls only), basin #0 & #3 (off limits & for long term storage only) (3) Peace & Plenty Hotel, George Town (4) Kidd Cove--> south end of Regatta Point (5) Red Shanks Cays or Crab Cay--> long dinghy ride to George Town via Crab Cay Bridge
Wed. Jan. 12, 2011 (Week 15, Day 100): That’s right--- day 100 from the time we left Ottawa! Only approximately 143 days remaining! Today was also remarkable as 49 out of 50 states received snow; exempted was Florida. What’s happened at home? My grey hairs have increased 10 fold; very personal reasons may have played a big role. I am very grateful that Lynn & Larry were around; I owe a lot to them for their support in every way, otherwise I don’t know what I would have done.
Destination: Monument Beach, Stocking Harbour to Red Shanks Cays Anchorage Departure: 0900 hrs. Arrival: 1035 hrs. Mileage: 7.91 SM/6.88 NM Weather: mostly sunny, & very warm (?28C); late pm rain clouds around mainly to the NW but no precipitation Winds: ESE about 10K; late pm N
We were introduced to George Town Cruisers Net; an invitation was first announced on VHF 68 (hailing channel here) & to switch to 72; weather report, business, community announcements regatta, boaters general, new arrivals, departures & thought of the day was the program followed. Afterwards VHF was extremely busy with multi cruiser conversations. We up anchored & gradually made our way past Hamburger Beach, hurricane hole anchorages on Stocking Island, Volleyball Beach sliding down to the south end of Stocking & Elizabeth Island (now Elizabeth Harbour). Then we turned to starboard evading coral heads towards Crab Cay & Red Shanks Cays. Slowly we hugged the shoreline moving in a semicircular fashion till we set anchor down in 8 ft. with 80 ft. of chain; later I snorkeled the humps/undulations of sand locating the anchor itself. We dinghied to George Town via going under the 15 ft. fairly new Crab Cay Bridge--> a good 15-20 min. ride; further than the other anchorages off Stocking Island, but we had relocated here pending very strong & prolonged days of NE winds from this afternoon through to Sunday. We located the entrance into Victoria Lake, really a pond, Exuma Markets, Scotiabank & RBC Bank, Department of Tourism & a few hair/barber shops; but more explorations necessary. We picked up a few groceries at Exuma Markets ($60.07!); a well stocked grocery store with anything you would need if you were willing to pay the price; although some items were well priced. We will try Shop-Rite in the future where the locals usually shop, Mom’s Bakery & the Straw Market, but earlier in the day. I walked into Tranees Salon & got a badly needed hair cut immediately--> way too short, but I now see & remember that I have a cowlick on the top left of my head that I must warn people about & only then will they perhaps cut my hair more decently rather than it literally standing straight up. The others had beers at Denny’s (new joint next to Lake Victoria dinghy dock & Exuma Markets) while I walked about & had a haircut. The wind was slowly increasing when we dinghied back & that was when I snorkeled the anchor then rinsed off with the transom shower. Supper= Thai chez Morrows till 2100 hrs.--> superb! Some reading of a new novel then to bed. No sunset due to cloud cover, a mostly cloudy night & a hazy ½ moon.
Thurs. Jan 13, 2011 (Week 15, Day 101): Destination: Red Shanks Cays Anchorages Weather: cloudy; only a few very brief moments of blue sky & sun; warm--> cool but still in shorts Winds: N 25-30K & gusty; few white caps & short 1 ft. waves despite all the protection
A poor sleep with the increasing north winds at 0100 hrs.; at 0315 hrs. I was up & reading. A light sleep afterwards till 0700 hrs. therefore we missed Chris Parker’s transmission. George Town Cruisers Net seemed a little disorganized this am but all in all it is an admirable effort & informative. Winds were obviously the main factor today; Graeme let another 40 ft. of chain out, therefore 120 ft. total. We are so lucky to have relocated here as the protection is pretty well all directional. No pitching or rock ‘n rolling, hurray! But a day on the boat unfortunately; reading about the Outer Islands, watching a lone dolphin with great joy as we have not seen one since Florida & the ICW, watching a few more boats arrive & a few joe jobs. No visible sunset. Supper= leftovers of last few night’s meals. Reading & hoping sleep will come easily tonight.
Fri. Jan. 14, 2011 (Week 15, Day 102): Destination: Red Shanks Cays Weather: mostly cloudy with brief periods of sun Winds: howling N to NE 25-30K
Howling winds again today remained the huge factor--> no off boat activities, very restrictive, felt boat bound & bored; itching to walk about & explore town, unable to socialize & talk to other cruisers; thinking that with such frequent & prolonged fronts of high winds & seas that the Outer Islands may not be appropriate territory to explore. This front of weather (winds & seas) are extended till Mon. now with possibility of squalls. Some gentle rain would be appreciated as the boat is so salty. Unless you have experienced it, I find it hard to express into words the salt environment factor. We have been able to keep salt to a minimum in the cabin by removing footwear & clothing that have been infiltrated by salt & by wearing footwear for below decks only. Sleep was again only in few hour stints then few hours of listening to the unforgiving, howling winds, feeling the incredible pulling action & force on the anchor & chain & what if, listening to all the boat sounds as a result of 25+K winds especially in the dark, & thinking & worrying. The day comprised of a pancake breakfast for a change, boat shower, George Town Cruisers Net, scrubbing the shower, cooking up some hot dogs for lunch & macaroni noodles to make a macaroni salad, deciding what to have for supper & reading+++; no internet from this location. No sunset, only clouds. Supper= chicken breasts seasoned with garlic & onions, potatoes & corn. Reading then watched a DVD called Gran Torino which did distract our attention from the howling winds. To bed after medicating myself. Cloudy, slightly cool but comfortable night & N-NE winds slightly calmer at about 20K.
Sat. Jan. 15, 2011 (Week 15, Day 103): Destination: still Red Shanks Weather: heavy cloud, coolish & brief rain showers Winds: N to NE 20 -25K
Slept well. Looks like another day cooped up on boat; 2 days down 2 days to go apparently. With difficulty received Chris Parker, then Cruisers Net; some improvement in weather epected Sun. pm till Mon. pm, then increased winds that evening & night. We have spent lots of time here in George Town but not seeing anything. My back is a hair better & thankfully the pain has been confined to just across my lower back & not down my right leg; I guess the meds twice a day has helped. It might be stress; stress does nasty things as I have had also a slight burn in the stomach area X several days--> ulcer? I spent the am doing expenditure recording, a project that I have wanted to do for a long time. Unfortunately this was interrupted after lunch when I discovered all the boxes wet under 1 floor board despite being wrapped in plastic-->1/8” salty, beige coloured fluid with tiny black specks (coffee grinds from a few weeks ago?). On further inspection we discovered some of the same in the compartment just aft & only a slight wetness in the med floor compartment just in front, yet all others were dry as a bone. The cleaning process went on for hours. Where was it coming from? There was lots of garbage now between 3 wine boxes & a beer & candy box. The Morrows were coming over for snacks & dinner= sloppy joes, macaroni salad & oreo cookies for dessert (soft?). We attempted to download a program allowing my laptop to recognize an antenna the Morrows had given me--> would not recognize. No sunset, occasional relief from the howling winds. I can’t imagine how lumpy it must be on Stocking & Elizabeth Harbours; I could see through the gap in the cays to see 1-2 ft. whitecapped chop. Only a few short rain showers, no stars & only cloud.
Sun. Jan. 16, 2011 (Week 15, Day 104): Destination: Red Shanks Weather: cloudy, not as heavy as yesterday, some blue sky & sun! Winds: still N to NE 10-15
A fairly good sleep--> seems the wind was less gusty & less boat movement & noise. An uneventful & unexciting am of breakfast, Cruisers net, boat shower & journal logging. But I did notice that the Bahamian courtesy flag on our starboard side has taken a beating & has frayed with the 1st weather front to Chubb Cay on Dec. 18th & has continued to deteriorate. Today I noticed that our big Canadian flag flown from our port stern, compliments of Diane & Bruce Kerr, has started to rip on the upper left corner seam. Mid morning the Morrows & ourselves ventured towards Master Harbour Marina in the dinghy; appeared rough & not conductive to picking up guests. We dinghied along the shoreline to Master Harbour Villas--> nice looking rentals, a nice & handy beach & dock that would serve well for pick-ups. We met Janet (N.B.) who gave us the proprietor’s name & cell number to call & ask permission (Jerry Lawless; rentals $1500.00 per month for 1-2 bedroom). The dinghy ride home was a wet one for some; I was well prepared this time with foul weather gear all done up. The ride to & from town would be long & wet as the wind was still at 15K & rollers & chop were 1-2 ft.; will have to wait till tomorrow + most places were closed at 1000 hrs. being Sunday & only a few reopened at 1400 hrs. An afternoon in the sheltered cockpit updating & completing my expenditure records, then journal entry till dark. Still finding evidence of fluid in the same one compartment; I say it was beer, certainly not tasting salty now, but Graeme was not sure No sunset but a few gaps in the clouds revealed some red sky.
Mon. Jan. 17, 2011 (Week 15, Day 105): Happy 41st Anniversary Lynn & Larry! Destination: Red Shanks ancora Weather: Ah hah, warm, sunny with some fair weather clouds Winds: Double ah hah, E to ESE still in the 12-18K range
No matter what, we were going into town! I needed to change the bed linen & stage laundry for when our guests arrive next Tues.; clothes wise we had faired well. Cruisers Net at 0800 hrs. while eating breakfast. We had thought about moving our location late today or tomorrow closer to town on a rising tide & expressed an interest to attend the Rock ‘n Roll Dance at Chat ‘n Chill at 1730 hrs. Bed linen laundry & laundry supplies organized. Since the weather has been consistently warm I was able to store away my warm clothes ie long sleeve T’s. vests, fleeces & thereby make room on the V-berth shelf. I bundled up head to toes for the dinghy ride to town. Not wet in this direction but going home was a different story--> winds did not decrease as expected. In town: bought the infamous regatta T 1 load of laundry--> small ($2.25 per load), medium & large washers & medium ($4.00/ 40 min.) & large ($7.00) dryers; total= $6.25 walked the entire circle of George Town + photos, checking out grocery prices at the 2 grocery stores (Mailboat arrived late Mon. pm; suggest Tues. & Thurs. are best shopping days) & located the churches & other shops until the dryer finished, RBC Bank-->$800 Bahamian from ATM to US dollars ($4.00 charge); Graeme could only withdraw $500.00 from Scotiabank internet at Pet’s Store--> free unless you use power; emailed family but tons of emails We were invited to Lynn & Larry’s for a steak anniversary dinner! I was able to find a card in ‘Accents’ before we headed back. This was the wet ride but the clean laundry & netbook were each quadrupled wrapped. A quick boat shower rinse then over to the celebration dinner. BBQ steaks done to perfection potatoes & romaine salad--> WOW! And for dessert, champagne followed by ‘Nassau Royale’. There was a sunset tonight but in this location we had an island obscuring the horizon. The winds did drop after sunset, a near full moon & stars. There was scant fluid in the compartment but Graeme had finally isolated the problem after 3 days--> the culprit was 7 beer cans stored in that compartment whose aluminium had deteriorated thus causing slow leaks!