Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dec. 21-27, 2010 (Week 12, Day 78-84)

Tues. Dec. 21, 2010 (Week 12, Day 78): Destination: Frazer’s Hog Cay to Nassau (Nassau Harbour Club Marina--- $1.75/ft. = $63.00 + $6.00 water= $69.00) Departure: 0630 hrs. Arrival: Mileage: Weather: pleasantly cool, beautiful moon over casaurina pines on shore on leaving anchorage & light dissipating clouds Winds: nice steady N wind all night & at sunrise NE at 10K & also steady

At around 0200 hrs. when the winds & current were in sync & water more calm, we got up, & hoisted the dinghy on deck. We were unaware that an eclipse of the moon was to be, but Graeme did notice how very bright it had been then suddenly dark. Back to sleep until alarm sounded at 0515 hrs. ‘Artful’ & ‘Firecrest’ had already left. An early start for our trek to New Providence Island & Nassau via NW Providence Channel toward Tongue of Ocean, about 39 NM. Another magnificent sunrise in the Bahamas. With the jenny out we motor sailed close hauled in 8-10K that decreased to 4-6K. There were 1 ft. waves with swells/rollers about 3-5 ft. well spaced so we were rolling nicely up & over them instead of pounding through them like the other day. We could see the Atlantis Resort for > 15 mi. away. Upon our approach to the Nassau Harbour we were obliged to call the Nassau Harbour Control requesting permission to enter harbour; seems that our VHF was not transmitting as well as in the past yet we were receiving very well; how does that work? We entered the west end entrance with crashing rollers to our sides into calm turquoise 40 ft. water. Two cruise liners tied to Prince George Docks on Nassau side to starboard of us + an anchorage area just before East Bridge, then under West Bridge followed by a string of many local fishing boats (? Potters Cay). On port we passed Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island then a large cluster of very colourful, brightly painted homes/condos. Nassau Harbour Club Marina was the last of the marinas on the Nassau side. We were assigned to slip #22 & nicely tied up with assistance of very capable marina staff; piles at stern & long dock leading from bow to stern (starboard tie up). A quick lunch & registered with a very pleasant lady in the office (2nd floor); male & female washrooms (keypad 14, turn to right) with 2 toilets + 2 showers (nice); laundry facilities to left of washrooms= 4 washers + 4 dryers--> tokens from office $3.00 each. Already 1430 hrs. which did not give me enough time to see Atlantis, Cloister (14th Century French Monastery) & Versailles Gardens on Paradise Island with proper attention. Graeme went on his own to a couple marine shops & Scotiabank ATM (0900-1500) while Larry, Lynn & I caught a bus ($1.25) across the street on Shirley (one way into town) across from Harbour Bay Plaza directly in front of our marina; we walked downtown on Bay St. (one way out of downtown)--> many liquor stores, jewellery &perfume stores (similar to Bridgetown in Barbados) + Straw Market (1/2 dozen long rows of millions of concessions manned by mainly Bahamian females, piled to near ceiling of temporary tent structure while new concrete building under construction on location of original market that burnt down; rows so narrow that hardly could walk down them; caps, T-shirts, purses, souvenirs, jewellery & trinkets). Bleachers for Junkanoo (# on seats)--> Dec. 26th & New Years, colourful celebration parade that starts at 0200 hrs. & goes till after sunrise. At the bus terminal on Bay St. we took the #11 bus to the shopping plaza & into Starbucks for an hour of internet. The City Market is a very good, well stocked grocery store with not bad prices. At home Graeme & Pat were assembling a switch to bypass the relay in case of reoccurring failures. A late supper= Salisbury Hamburger Helper, then over to the Morrows’ boat to discuss plans for the next few days, including Christmas; ‘Artful’ & ‘Firecrest’ were staying 7-10 days or more (?) & maybe even stay. A calm night, light breeze, comfortable warm to cool temp, especially when the sun had gone, & stars.

Wed. Dec. 22, 2010 (Week 12, Day 79): Destination: Nassau to Allen Cay, Exumas Departure: 1040 hrs. Arrival: 1625 hrs. Mileage: Weather: blue skies & a sunny day with high of 20-23C (ideal) Winds: calm SSE to S 4-8K

We were unable to get Chris Parker at 0630 hrs.; Lynn did get some weather-->good for next 2 days, but unpleasant on Sun., but who knows as predictions have been suspect. We better go so we are not stuck in Nassau for too long, although 1 more day would be ideal. While Graeme fuelled up the boat tank & refilled the jerry cans, dove down to discover massive grass around the prop & shaft as he thought, & filled the boat water tanks, I hosed & scrubbed with soap & brush & Simple Green the dinghy & the deck from bow to stern including the cockpit, all cockpit cushions & transom; made good use of our $6.00 water charge. A quick shower, trip to the City Market with Larry (sliced bread, eggs, ground beef + 2 mac & cheese Caribbean style. Good byes to our Canadian travelling buddies--- Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! We were very ably assisted off the dock & back out into the harbour. We hailed Harbour Control several times but no response but someone came back & said “just leave”. Domestic batteries are not charging + the engine fan is not running! Once out of the harbour we turned the engine off, employed Pat’s homemade switch & the batteries started charging but fan was not. Do we turn around back to Nassau or to we proceed? Graeme’s decision was to press on. It was so warm it definitely was bathing suit time. The turquoise water of the Great Bahamas Bank was so clear you could see bottom (12-20 ft.). We motor sailed with jenny out at a speed of about 6.4K except through the yellow coral field (large patches that appear like a oil slick on the water). Autopilot looked after the direction while Graeme supervised & I cleaned the stainless steel with Prism & most of the enclosure’s windows. At Allan’s Cay we sited 16 boats in the anchorage & there still was 3 of us. Is there room? Will the electric windlass work? The Morrows entered first followed by boat #2 then us; we anchored along the west shore behind the Morrows & in front of a catamaran. The electric windlass did NOT work; I manually operated the electric windlass hoping it would land in sand; we were only able to put out 50-60 ft. of chain in 10.8 ft. water. I cannot pull this anchor up by hand from now until June! Seeing our frustration Larry & Lynn dinghied over for drinks & snacks, & Larry & Graeme worked on the electric windlass connection--> 2 wires not connected! So why up till recently have we had power to that windlass? Never any problems in the Chesapeake last Fall & this Spring. A lovely sunset, dinner= mac & cheese, journal writing for me while Graeme slept, then it was too bed. Clear night, bright stars & bright moon.

Thurs. Dec. 23, 2010 (Week 12, Day 80): Destination: Allan’s Cay Weather: mostly sunny, some cloud, threatening rain Winds: major factor of the day! > 20K WNW to W, but so strong that crashing waves towards south end of island & SW Allan’s Cay came around the corner creating sideway rock ‘n roll action from 0330 hrs. & all day; late afternoon, shifted to N 20-15K

No Chris Parker, good reception from Highborne Cay on VHF 06 at 0730 hrs. but no Warderick Wells reception at 0800 hrs. It was not a good day to move with rage conditions. Rage is strong winds & waves coming directly at narrow channels between islands from the ocean. Outgoing tides from the banks create large waves & confused waters with rough & dangerous conditions when entering or exiting a narrow channel between 2 islands that lead directly to the ocean whereby a boat can easily be overcome. As predictions have it, Fri. & Sat. appear better but Sun. is anything but. Our plan to go to Norman’s Cay today had to be changed & hopefully we can leave & go directly to Warderick Wells tomorrow & for Christmas Day. Batteries & windlass still functional. Some journal entry writing in Word of the past day, then some more stainless cleaning; only transom left. Several islands in the vicinity of Allan’s Cay ie Leaf Cay & SW Allan’s Cay are uninhabited except for iguanas. There are daily excursions from Nassau to here because of the mere 35 mi. distance. Early afternoon the Morrows picked us up in their dinghy as ours was still on the deck; it was too windy to try & launch it. We landed on Leaf Island & were met by several iguanas of varied sizes on the sandy beach. I tried to find the path to the east shore & ruins but found only dead ends; path must be on the next cove. We met & talked to Diane & Gerry from the catamaran ‘Babe’, returned to the boat & was entertained by a sailboat called ‘Laureat’ from Montreal (no home port flag) trying to anchor, losing their primary anchor (plough) because it was not tied down in the anchor well, deploying & anchoring with 2nd anchor (danforth) in full reverse & when caught too close to the catamaran, retrieving their lost anchor & rode from a dinghy & reanchoring at 3 different spots. With darkness came increased N winds. Supper= leftover hamburger helper & fresh beans. Today’s journal entry done before hitting the sack. A spooky night with a howling wind, pitch dark & trillions of stars.

Fri. Dec. 24, 2010 (Week 12, Day 81): Christmas Eve! Destination: Allans Cay to Warderick Wells, Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park Departure: 0800 hrs. Arrival: 1335 hrs. Mileage: 37.835 SM/32.9 NM Weather: cloudy with sunny periods then sunny & blue skies late am for the rest of the day Winds: NNW to N 15-20K all night; N12-15K mid am; NE in the afternoon at variable strength of 7-13K; E in evening at about 8-10K

Graeme always seemed to sleep well; I on the other hand slept well till 2400 hrs. then I was up every 2 hrs. to the bathroom & observing the happenings outside. Finally it was really time to get up at 0630 hrs. & have some breakfast . Systems were all working & there was no crashing waves through the narrow cut this particular morning. We up anchored normally & out of the channel without any problems into the Allan Bank; a little sloppy rock ‘n rolling until we got further out into the Great Bahamas Bank. One good rock though sent a bin of books in the V-berth toppling over but worse was the full pot of coffee with the basket of grounds still inside that went flying all over the galley & aft cabin floors despite the stove pot clamps attached; what a mess on the floor let alone below the floor boards! We motor sailed with the jenny on a broad reach close to a run in a southerly direction. We caught the transmission from Exuma Park on VHF 09 confirming that we indeed had a mooring ball assignment in the north field--> fantastic! There are 4 mooring areas in the vicinity of this wonderful land & sea park: north= Warderick Wells; SE corner= Emerald Rock & South Warderick Wells; east= between Hog Cay & Warderick Wells; Cambridge Cay/ Little Bell Island. Anchoring is prohibited in the north & south fields. Assignments are done by the park office & announced by hailing Exuma Park on VHF 16 (opens at 0900 hrs.) then switching to 09. You can reserve one day ahead (waitlist). The wind clocked more towards our beam so we raised the main for a while cruising around 6.0-6.5K in depths of 18-20 ft. until we turned to port towards Warderick Wells---16 ft. & more brilliant turquoise water. The fabulous sunshine emphasized the beautiful variety & shades of blues & turquoise. As we turned into the northern mooring field we followed the deeper water in a circular fashion towards the park headquarters till we reached ball #11; a very strong current. It took 3 attempts after picking the line up to remove the boat hook which was extended too far & kept getting caught in the taut jenny sheets, thus preventing me from getting our mooring lines through the loop. We launched the dinghy & motor & up to the office to pay our fees: $15.00 per night for less than 40 ft. or a $50.00 membership which included 2 nights + priority booking X 1 yrs. WiFi was $10.00 for a 24 hrs. period or 100MB. The view of the north & Emerald Rock mooring fields from the headquarters was spectacular. There are a lot of trails to explore + snorkeling. Drinks & snacks at the Morrows’ boat; sitting in the cockpit with the tide falling we could see in the short distance towards the beach the floor dotted with exposed small conch shells & at sunset the lighting made the sand dunes to the west looked like snow mounds! I’m a little homesick for home because it is Christmas & it just doesn’t feel like it here. Home to make supper= hamburgers. Then it was time to tackle the cleaning up of the coffee & grounds under the floor board storage areas trying to use minimal water (not free any longer & not readily available)--> an all evening job. The Christmas Tree was placed on the table & Graeme got the lights in the cockpit in flashing red mode; some of the other boats had Christmas lights strung out in their cockpits. It was a beautiful evening & night, very comfortable temp., stars+++ & ¾ moon that came up later over the east rock & sand land formation. No Christmas Service in this remote area but a Christmas Potluck organized tomorrow at 1400 hrs. with turkey the & ham supplied by the Park; we signed up but will still have our Christmas dinner later at the Morrows (a joint effort).

Sat. Dec. 25, 2010 (Week 12, Day 82): Merry Christmas! Destination: Warderick Wells Weather: beautifully warm temp. (23-25C), partly cloudy first thing in the am but brilliant sunshine thereafter all day Winds: S to N to NE 5-10K

I slept soundly till 0430 hrs.; I knew Santa was skipping this domain this year, but I guess I was thinking of the list of things I had to do in the am. Graeme showered while I decorated the boat with little red bows & snowflakes & a Christmas bell at the bow & one for the dinghy. We had a nice Christmas breakfast listening to the weather from only Highbourne Cay this am at 0730 hrs. on VHF 06--> not good for Sun. & Mon. I made the Caesar salad dressing, prepared the peas & their fixings in a pot as well as potatoes; washed all the dirty dishes, stripped the bed & placed fresh linen on the bed. My turn for a shower. Noonish we picked Larry up & walked the trail to the blow holes in the limestone rock & to Boo Boo Hill, where many cruisers have left their boat name craved or stenciled on a piece of driftwood. The Exuma Sound (Atlantic) was quiet so there were very occasional waves that sent water through the blow holes (today merely mist & air). The trail started from the beach through light scrub & mangroves, through a place where we had to walk across a creek as the tide was not completely out & up to the top to limestone rocks, some pinky white sand & teeny tiny shells, scrub vegetation & tiny curly tail lizards. I tried my Canadian cell + Larry’s Bahamian cell at the top of Boo Boo Hill several times but unsuccessful in contacting Ottawa; Boo Hoo! We headed back; the tide was falling exposing all the small conch littering the beach floor. Back at home we gathered our donation for the potluck & our drinks & dinghied to shore to the staff quarters--> lovely building with full kitchen facilities & living room. WHAT A CHRISTMAS FEAST WITH CHRISTMAS MUSIC! It was hosted by Darcy & her husband Kevin & well attended by the cruisers from the multiple anchorages. We chatted with several people & Dennis & Nevada invited us all down to the bar--> free rum punch & dancing music! All this helped to fill the void of not having family around. We hurried back to the boat to prepare the peas, the mashed potatoes & salad & dinghy to the Morrows by 1800 hrs. for another Christmas meal-->scrumptious; much chatting then watched an Ohio Christmas Story DVD. 2230 hrs.---way past our bedtime; we dinghied home under zillions of stars. Sleep came fast.

Sun. Dec. 26, 2010 (Week 12, Day 83): Boxing Day Destination: Warderick Wells Weather: sunny till noon when we saw the definite demarcation line of a cold front (huge & very nasty) approaching from the NNE, then cloudy to black clouds & some but very little rain Winds: SW 10-15K in am; W to WNW 20-30K afternoon & evening; W to WNW 35-50K all night long!

Highbourne Cay at 0730 hrs. was the only location broadcasting weather (VHF 06) + the boat list at 0900 hrs. by Darcy at Warderick Wells Park Office; no one leaving; I wonder why! At 0830 hrs. the Morrows came over for breakfast; we relaxed over a cup of coffee then leisurely I got the French Toast & sausage & more coffee cooked; once that was consumed it was fruit cup with homemade shortbread cookies (made in Ottawa). We chatted the morning away. The winds had been increasing & soon after noon the sky was ugly. It was best that everyone return to their boats & hunker down for the blow which was now approaching fast & the winds were clocking to the west which put many boat sterns including ours close to the rocky shore. Dishes then puttering, journal writing which I had not done in 3 days; Graeme checked the mooring lines with the increasing winds & whitecaps. The W winds howled >30K with a line of black clouds in the near distance; just enough rain fell to clean the salty windows. Some more reading to distract our attention from the scary weather. A late supper= leftover turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy & fresh beans. It was really a terrifying night, so black & dark with only anchor lights visible atop many boats; the sound of the howling & gusting winds, the crashing of waves against the boat, the stern, the dinghy & the rocky shore which at night one thought you able to reach out & touch. This was probably the second most emotionally charged night I have had. How could anyone sleep tonight? I did my journal entry into the computer then more reading hoping that that would bring on sleep; Graeme did not seem to have a problem. Junkanoo in Nassau was to start at 0200 hrs. We had seen the decorations & the bleachers set up & marked for the paying public for this traditional Boxing Day family parade. I wonder how it went with these ferocious winds? I am sad that I did not see a Junkanoo yet but these weather conditions would have hampered the feastivities. Maybe there will be an opportunity to see one at New Years.

Mon. Dec. 27, (Week 12, Day 84): Warderick Wells Weather: cloudy, with brief periods of blue sky & sun, with more sunny periods in the afternoon; temp on cool side, probably about 15C Winds: W to WNW > 25-30K; gale force in some areas of the Bahamas & Florida; strong winds to continue till mid week; NE 20-25K well after sunset

A mostly sleepless & terrifying night for me; one feels so helpless & vulnerable in these conditions; at night in complete darkness sounds, creaks & groans are magnified. The 0730 hrs. weather report from Highbourne Cay & 0800 hrs. from Staniel Cay were calling for much of the same strong, gusting winds for all day with a shift of the wind to the NE which should move our stern away from the direction of the rocky shore. This is a magnificent place to stay for an extended period of time because of all the walking trails & the snorkeling possibilities; with these weather & sea conditions there has been no possibility X 2 days now. Graeme checked the mooring lines after breakfast. The wind gen has been keeping the batteries well charged, but we still ran the engine this am so as to charge my laptop; hence I did some more journal entry in Word; one of these days I will get internet so I can cut & paste my entries into my blog for friends back home to read. We were hoping to go ashore this afternoon where there might be a better connection to hook up to the internet for the 24 hr. period we had purchased. The wind did not veer much to the north nor did it lose any strength during the day, therefore we did not venture to shore to activate the internet. I have not been in contact with my family since Sun. Dec. 19th! So it was an afternoon of reading, napping & yearning to be out on land walking the trails at least. Sunset came at 1720 hrs. with a red sky following. Supper= pork chops in maple syrup sauce, rice & beans. The whitecaps have diminished & perhaps the winds at times, but they were still very gusty & howling. Stars were in abundance; a ½ moon came up late. Sleep did come tonight with only 2 risings to check on our surroundings.

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