Monday, February 28, 2005

Exuma Park Photo Gallery

Exuma Park mooring fieldBubba-- Exuma Parks pet baraccuda
Ross in the Pirate's lair Kathy & Bev in the Plantation ruins
Ross Peter in Murphy's holeSteelaway's Boo Boo Hill momento

Nassau to Exuma Park February 2005 crowded anchorage as all the boats wait out the norther
anchored with the iguanas at Allans Cay
fabulous snorkeling in the crystal blue water at Allans CayWe have enjoyed a great day sail from Nausau (Rose Island) to Allan's Cay, across the Yellow bank, Bev on the bow looking for coralheads, but we saw no water less than 10’ In Allans we fed and fought off the iguanas, snorkled on a couple beautiful reefs, Bev kayaked for a couple of hours, we fished trolling the dinghy and caught a sand tile fish, which we returned to the ocean. We wish the water temp was a little warmer, currently 72-74, or that we had wet suits because after about 45 min. we are cold. Ross has been tending his lobster trap, but has not been successful in catching anything. One of the other boaters did catch a huge lobster (39" long, and tail weighed 18 oz.) but he had been snorkeling/hunting for 3 hours. We aren't that dedicated. We are trolling 2 long lines as we sail, and we did get a bite, but lost it. Sure it was a big one, but it didn't break the line, or take the lure, so guess it couldn't have been that big.

Mark, from Cardia and Art, from Margarittavile, holding their dinnerExcept for one miserable day and night, when the last norther came through when we were in Allans, winds hit 30 kn. and the boats were doing crazy dances on their anchors in the winds and currents, everything has been fantastic. The days start off cool, but by the afternoon we are enjoying sunny 70's + (25 in Canadian).

Norman Wells is an interesting experience. After our tough stay in the cut at Allans, we have decided not to anchor in the cut, instead we anchor off McDuff’s and call for a dinner reservations. They are open but have no food, so we settle for drinks. McDuff’s sits right beside the airstrip. Pedestrians can walk up and down, tour the hangers..what is security? Norman Wells is where the drug lord Carlos Lehder once controlled the island. There is a plane awash from the drug running days and you can snorkle it, although there is not much left of it. We walk around the ruins of the old resort and find another well, even with a clothes line..guess it is laundry day. drinks at MacDuff's
Ross on the boat on the hill
view of anchorage off Normans' cay huge vegetation growing along road

From RAFT we could see what we thought was a cottage, far up the hill, but there were no lights on it at night. We decided to follow the road up the hill to investigate and found out to our surprise it is a boat!! No we have no idea how it got there, but standing on its roof the view was incredible. There are roads all over the island, they are trying to subdivide it and build mega homes and there are a few. Most of the roads go nowhere, but it is good to get off RAFT and go for the walk.

Feb 15th Great sail from Normans to Exuma Park. We call ahead (on the radio) to reserve a ball, although there are good anchorages available. Exuma Park is fantastic and we spend several days here hiking, snorkeling, kayaking and visiting other boaters. We snorkled with a lemon shark, manta rays, barracuda, huge grouper and hundreds of other different kinds of fish. Since this is a “no take” area, even the lobsters don’t hide. We had to buy a new fish id book at the park office to try and identify what we were seeing. We hiked all the trails, both on the ocean side, where there are blow holes, and spectacular ocean views, and the Exuma Sound side, past ruins of old farms...words don't do justice to what we have been enjoying. Of course, we had to leave a RAFT remembrance on BooBoo Hill.

We had read that boaters could do volunteer work at the park, to cover off some of the mooring fees ($15/night). Unfortunately while we were there, the park was going through organizational changes, and in the process of getting legal waivers written for the volunteers to sign. We understand that this has been done, so that in the future volunteer work will be available again.

Bev shows off RAFT's momento left on Boo Boo Hill

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Abacos – Royal Island – Rose Island February 2005

Feb. 1, 2005 We were watching the weather window, and predicted Tues (today) and Wednesday we should have 10-15 winds from the North to North East, with NE swells in the ocean 6 - 10 ft. A little larger than we would like. Then on Thursday, there is another Low coming in from Florida, 25-30 knots for the weekend. The trip to Royal Island is 50 miles, so averaging 5 knots we should be able to get there in 10 hours. Daybreak is about 630 and sunset is Now you see RAFT1800 -- we should be able to do it, anchor up to Now you don'tanchor down in daylight.
RAFT seen through Steelaway's port This morning at 615 we raised our anchor and sails, and motor/sailed out the cut and were in the ocean by 645 The cut was no problem and the ocean was as predicted NE 10-15 5-8 ft swells. We have arrived at Royal Island, anchor down by 1700. The winds were up to 20Knots and the swells over 10' but since it is all from the stern, we are made good speed, and sailed the majority of it.

It was a great ocean passage, probably the best we have done so far. Now we will take our time exploring Royal Island, Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, before making the jump over to Rose Island (near Nassau) to go done the Exuma chain to Georgetown. Of course we have to wait for this messy weather to go through this weekend, but the anchorage here in Royal Island is 360 degree protected. Just hope it warms up soon, and we can get back in the water.

Royal Island anchorage Feb 4/05 We are sitting in a totally protected anchorage, enclosed by Royal Island, which is just northwest of Eleuthera Island. There are about a dozen boats here, about half of them Canadian including Steelaway and La Voile au Vent.

Yesterday was just a fantastic day. Bev baked bread and chelsea buns, using her mom's recipe, and flour tortillas. We were completely out of bread and the nearest store is about 5 miles away in Spanish Wells. After the baking was finished and RAFT tidied up, the gang headed over to a little sand beach (by dinghy) for a picnic lunch and afternoon at the beach. We went snorkleing over what Ron thought was a wreck, turned out to be an underwater forklift truck, how it got there, who knows. At the beach, there were makeshift picnic tables, a couple of recliner chairs, a hammock, bbq and firepit, everything you need. Out of the wind, the sun was wonderful and the seas calm. Boys and their cars
Bev relaxingRoss relaxing Fresh water will get increasingly more difficult to obtain and more expensive the further south we go, so we are definitely in conservation mode. Right now, it looks like it is raining in Spanish Wells, and the front is due to pass by anytime now. Hopefully we can catch enough fresh water to do laundry, shower, etc. The winds are due to pickup to 20 knots and should shift from the west to the north/northwest. The man in the next boat just came over, to discuss our proximity to his boat, in case things get real windy. We should be okay, we have 100 ft of chain attached to our 20kg anchor in 8 ft of water, but we aren't leaving RAFT with the approaching front. Until now, we have never dragged, but there is always a first…We are able to get good weather reports on the SSB and are really happy that we put in the radio system. The front went through, we all swung, everthing was fine. But the next morning as we were sitting having breakfast, we started to drag and we don’t know what caused the anchor to fail. We have been told that there are a lot of old mooring anchors from a previous mooring field, maybe we caught on something. But now we can’t say “we have never draggerd”…happens to everyone out here.

We expect we will stay in Royal Island for the weekend, then move over to Spanish Wells, to get gas for the dinghy. We upgraded the dinghy motor in Marsh Harbor, to an new Johnson 8hp (2 cycle) It doesn't weigh much more than the 4hp, but we should be able to plane with 2 in the dink once it is broken in. The only negative, it drinks more gas, Ross already ran out of gas once, and Pete (Steelaway) had to tow him back. He could have rowed, but Pete was there to lend a hand. I certainly feel much better, having the bigger motor, We can handle the stronger winds and the longer distances we want to travel.

It didn’t rain, but we did discover the old water cisterns on Royal Island. We took our pails, and dirty bodies and laundry and washed up on shore. The ruins on Royal Island are immense. In a previous time there were huge residences, large kitchen and dining areas, barns, garages and homes for the help. Now the island is stocked with wild bore and the hunters come regularly. We wear bright clothes and make a lot of noise as we explore the island. Ruins on Royal IslandBev & Ron in the kitchen

Next stop: Spanish Wells an immaculate fishing village just north of Eulthera. We were able to anchor outside, and go and explore. This town is well off, and it shows. Large well looked after homes, fenced gardens, double garages, fancy cars (on a small island with no where to go) and lots of fishing and lobstering boats. And its dry…. no alcohol

Fast ferry coming from NassauBev & Kathy walking in Spanish Wells

clean cute homes in Spanish WellsFeb 8th.05 Looks like we will have a down wind sail to Rose Island. We had to dodge the fast ferry from Nassau, as we left Spanish Wells. Great sail, main only, but things got scary as we approached the cut into Rose Island. Steelaway was in the lead, and radioed back “its white water, everywhere” but the Explorer waypoints were right on and we ducked in safely, and anchored in Bottom Harbour, Rose Island, as per Van Sant’s instructions. We had been inspired by his book to make this trip– the Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South, and we finally were on his track.

White water welcomes us through the cut to Rose IslandSafely anchored Bottom Harbour, Rose Island

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Abacos January 2005

Dolphins in Marsh HarbourJan 13/05 Ross’s Birthday
We are hiding from another norther…this time in Treasure Cay. At least the Abacos has lots of secure anchorages to try when the northers come through. Treasure Cay is very cruiser friendly. They have a fantastic deal at the marina for January and February, like Green Turtle plus allow the boats anchored (there are no longer mooring balls) to use their facilities, showers and pool for $8/night. We also extended that to get water. The beach at Treasure Cay is rated as one of the best in the world and we have to agree with the rating. Although it was too cold to swim, we really enjoyed walking in the pure white sand.

The boats in the anchorage continue to drag with each squall, so we are kept busy. Bev is baking, to warm RAFT and provide comfort food. This norther lasts 5 days, and when it is over we head back to Marsh Harbour.

Jan 24/05 Marsh Harbour
We are ready to move....we have been here too long... We have about 60 miles outside to do, to go from Little Harbor (Abacos) to Royal Island (Eleuthera) We have been gleaning info from others who have made the trip...some say go right to Rose Island and explore the Exumas, others recommend spending lots of time on Eleuthera, and making the jump to the Exumas through one of the cuts. Can't say today what we will do, but we will figure that out once we get there.

Right now, looking at the weather forecast, we know we will be staying in the Abacos until next week, so we are going to Hopetown tomorrow, and slowly making our way down to Little Harbor the jump off point. Apparently there are quite a few nice places to visit and great snorkeling, providing the water warms up a bit -- currently 65 degrees last week it was over 70, and still could only snorkel for about 30 mins and were cold. (no we do not have wetsuits).

Pieces of misinformation we were given about cruising the Bahamas: You don't need to know how to bake Bread, it is always available....not if the supply boat doesn't come in. In Green Turtle and Treasure Cay, commercial bread was only available the days the "boat" comes in, and private bakery bread sells out early in the morning. So Bev has been baking her own and enjoying doing so (The oven is also a source of needed HEAT!!) Otherwise, we are not having any difficulty purchasing necessary items, the stores have adequate supplies of cans, dairy products (cheddar cheese from New Zealand is only $2.50/lb and good), meats and prices just above US prices. Even the ATM's work, although only available in Marsh Harbour. Packaged American stuff, like cereals, crackers, pop, are higher. Yesterday, I paid $9.00 for the identical bottle of laundry soap I paid $3.00 in Florida. Great propane service, leave your tank at the hardware by 830 and it is returned full by 1230 for $12.
Laundry, ranges from $3 - $4 per load, but Bev does most on the boat. Getting used to everything getting covered with salt, and not drying..that's tough.

Jan 25/05 Today has been just a wonderful day. It started early, leaving Marsh Harbor 730 am. We had to leave that early since high tide is about that time, and the entrance into Hopetown is only about 5', and we draw at least that much. It is only about 12 miles over from Marsh Harbor to Hopetown, the sun was shining, the winds were very light, and it is finally starting to warm up. We entered this pretty town about 1000, and went to a marina. There are mooring balls in the harbor, but none were available, and we didn't want to leave RAFT outside, so we broke down and went to dock. We hadn't been at a dock since Fort Pierce. I asked Ross, if he still remembered how to dock. But it was an easy entrance, no wind, no current, and good finger docks. Steelaway also travelled with us. Ron and Larry came after, they don't draw as much so didn't need the tide assist. We had radioed them that the showers at the marina were not working (it is taking a long time for these islands to recover from the 2 hurricanes) so they decided to anchor out. Hopetown Marina, lighthouse in background
Larry & Ron anchored outside Hopetown
Hopetown Harbour viewed from lighthouseWe walked to the lighthouse, walked up the 100 steps to the top, and the view was incredible. Out to the east, was the Atlantic Ocean, crashing on the reefs, to the south and west, the quiet Sea of Abaco, small boats, villas, and white, white beaches. Then we dinghied over to the town, and the Atlantic Beach. It stretched out of miles, and we walked for a long way. We stopped back at a beach bar for a drink on the way back, then continued to explore the little town. As we found in Green Turtle, the walled streets are designed for walking or golfcarts, cars don't fit. The brightly painted homes, are predominately rented out to tourists. walking tour of Hopetown
Ocean beach off Hopetown
beach bar beertimeWe returned to RAFT in the late afternoon, and visited with the other boats on the dock. We blew the conch shell at sundown and it is starting to get cool. Bev made Bahamian Mac & Cheese in the oven for supper.
We continue to wait for weather, so have gone to explore Man of War Cay. We took a mooring, cheap and available, and set off to explore the island. We had been told about Lola, the local bread lady, and we went looking for her. Man of War is "dry" something no one had mentioned to us before. We checked out the ocean beach, and the boat building operation and that’s about all there is to this island. People are really friendly.
RAFT moored in Man of War Harbour
Jan 29,2005 We are leaving Marsh Harbour, for good we hope. The weather looks like it will be favourable for the crossing to Eleuthera in the next few days. We motor south and stop at Snake Cay. Here you can explore the mangrove swamp for miles in your dinghy. We had been warned to make sure you take your GPS as you can get lost. We see a number of large sea turtles, boy can they swim fast.

Next day, we anchor behind the island at the Little Harbour, so we will be ready to make the next big jump in our trip, from the Abacos Islands to the Exumas, via Eleuthera -- all of these places are in the Bahamas. Many of you were wondering why it was taking us so long to get going....lots of good reasons.
1) Christmas holidays: We had all of our children visiting us for the holidays, Paul and Brenda were able to spend 3 weeks with us, unfortunately, Rhonda had to return to work so was only with us for 10 days. It is much easier to plan visits, flying in and out of the same airport (Marsh Harbor) so that kept us in the Abacos until they had all left (Jan 6th)
2) Returning friends, coming back after holidays, and coming from the states. Winship was bringing a new anchor for Steelaway so we waited for them to get there
3) Winter northers, some coming from Canada, others from Florida. Cruisers who have been in the Abacos many winters, told us that usually they get a couple of northers in January, and between times it is lovely, warm and calm. This year had to be the exception. We had one norther basically everyweek, blowing 20-30 knots of wind for a couple of days, bringing cool temps especially at night, and knocking the water temp down to the 60's (no snorkeling). We know those in the northern latitudes are really feeling sorry for us, but it meant we had to take cover, in a secure anchorage for a couple of days, everyweek and there aren't that many places to hide.
4) Weather windows to go south: The northers also create big wind and waves on the ocean, and difficult/nearly impossible exits to the ocean for our passage. To leave the Sea of Abaco, a relatively protected body of water, about 60 miles long, about 5 miles wide, to go to the ocean, you have to go out through one of the cuts. At these cuts, the ocean goes from 1000's of feet deep to 20, and the cuts are usually very narrow, and rocky and can exhibit a "rage" or standing wave, depending on the wind/tide. The northers do provide the required wind direction to go south, if you can get out the cut, and the swells out there are not too bad.

So for the last week, we have been sitting in Marsh Harbor, restocking our supplies, visiting with Winship, and studying the weather. We have been watching the weather faxes, plotting the highs and lows, and listening to VHF and SSB weather reports at least twice a day. We left Marsh Harbor, on Sunday to explore the southern portion of the Sea of Abaco, and make our way down to Little Harbor, the jump off point to the SOUTH. Steelaway came with us and Ron on La Voile au Vent joined us on Monday.