Friday, May 30, 2008

Leaving Nassau, heading Home!! May 2008
Now that Kathryn and Ron have left, our final visitors of our sailing odessy, and we have met up and separated from Jim and Dinah on Evergreen, it was time to make our way north. Time was passing, and hurricane season approaching.
Raft was refueled, rewatered, reprovisioned for the trip. Our plans were to head for Beaufort, with as few stops as possible. As always, weather was our major concern. And weather in the Abacos has always been tough to deal with. We were anchored in Nassau harbour with a cold front approaching, and a potential window to jump to the states after it passed. The two captains (Paul on Vixon and us) and decided that the anchorage behind Chub Cay would be just as good an anchorage as Nassau for the cold front, and that would take one day off the trip home. So we motor sailed to Chub and anchored in Frazier Hog Bay.
From the charts, we expected the anchorage to be more protected with drying sand at low tide than it was. But we knew that the marina at Chub was now a "mega marina" so not really an option. At first we were the only boats in the anchorage, but were joined by a couple others. We checked out the island, not much to see, had a beer at the Berry Beach Club, again not much happening.
Picture: Berry Beach Club
All the excitement would happen that night!! Why must excitement happen after the sun goes down? Luck of a sailor. Here is the report.
At sunset we noticed dark clouds coming our way, then the lightning flashes in the distance. By 2100 we were in 46 knots of wind, from the west. It was dark and we had not expected anything this intense. We were anchored in Frazier Hog Bay, in 12-15 feet of water in good sand, with Vixon and two other boats we had seen in Nassau, Fantasy Island and Caledon. The wind maxed up, and a big wave sideswiped us, and Ross felt the anchor give way. We motored for over an hour while the anchor dragged and grabbed, in good sized wind chop. After an hour the winds slowly dropped back down to 15kn, Ross dropped the second anchor. He hadn't wanted to do that earlier, in case they fouled each other, plus our backup anchor only has 40 ft of chain, and he didn't want to risk running over the rode. We had a restless night, and this morning we calculated we had dragged about 400 ft, fortunately there was lots of room in the anchorage, so except for our pride, no damage was done.
We have reanchored, and are still sitting here, awaiting the approach of the cold front, expecting 20-25 kn from the NE later today. Hopefully we won't have anymore squalls....Last night was the highest winds we have seen in all our time out here.
Things did settle down, and the last couple days in Frazier Hog Bay were bumpy but nothing like we experienced that night.

Revisiting the Exumas May 2008
We hung around Georgetown another week, and we were able to reprovision, before Kathryn and Ron (Bev’s sister and brother in law) arrived. This was their third visit to RAFT, having previously visited in the Puerto Rico/US Virgins and Antigua-Dominica. Since K&R’s passion is snorkeling and walking beautiful beaches, we knew that they were going to have a great time in the Bahamas. Our plans were to pick them up in GT and sail with them to Nassau, letting them explore and us revisit our beloved Exuma Islands.
Once they arrived we gave them a quick tour to GT, moved over to Volleyball Beach, where we hiked to the Monument, kayaked the holes and snorkeled the "blue hole". The weather gods were with us, and we took advantage of the light winds, to motor sail to Rat Cay, fishing as we went. We caught a "big" barracuda, which we returned to the sea and ¾ ‘s of a good-sized ceral mackerel. Vixon, sailing with us, caught a mahi mahi, plus tuna and mackerel. We enjoyed a great fish dinner on RAFT that night.
Next day we were off to Galliot Cay. On the way, we caught our first mahi mahi of our trip. Paul had warned us, that when you catch a mahi, it will jump out of the water….and this one was jumping and continued to jump. As we reeled it in, we saw what was causing its displeasure…it was being chased by a shark. We had to reel in quickly in order to save our dinner, and we did. What a beautiful, blue and yellow 30" fish it was. It might have had a chance to be returned to the sea, except mahi taste so good! After an exciting "drift" snorkel between Galliot and Big Farmers, on the incoming tide, we had a second wonderful fish dinner in 2 nights.
Next day, we walked the island before taking a leisurely light wind sail to Black Point. Black Point looked better than we remembered Lorraine’s Mom is still baking great bread, and Lorraine’s restaurant is about the same, self serve bar, good food. In town there is a newer grocery store and a superclean laundromat.
Moving right along, our next stop was Piggy Beach at Big Majors. The pigs were there, waiting to be fed, and the Mega Yachts are definitely using this as their preferred anchorage. At low tide, we snorkeled the Grotto, and Bev still was impressed with the coral garden just east of the Grotto. Next day, after checking out the Pink, Blue and Ayles General Stores and buying fresh bread from Rhonda, (a new bakery to us) we were off for a high tide snorkel at the Grotto. This was a new experience for Bev, and a very enjoyable way to enjoy the Grotto. Even at high tide, you can still get in without going underwater, weaving your way through the cave entrance with about 6" airspace.
Pipe Creek was our next stop. We had heard about the docks at the end of the Decca Range but had never visited there before. We were fortunate to have just us and Vixen there, and thoroughly enjoyed checking out the military ruins, and walking over to check out the "mice run" at both high and low tide. Bev collected as many palm fronds as she could, knowing that her sources were coming to an end….and once they were gone she would have to go through the painful process of "weaving withdrawal".
Next day: a lovely sail to Exuma Park…a little more wind than expected. We had reserved a mooring ball in Warderick Wells in anticipation of an approaching cold front bringing in strong south and west winds. The park is much more organized than it was a couple of years ago. A huge mooring field has been installed in Emerald Bay, and there are now moorings at Shroud and many of the other islands in the park. They have installed Pay Stations, like the on St. John, to collect the money. Price is still $15 per night for RAFT.
First item: walk up BooBoo Hill to see if our RAFT momento is there, and if so, retrieve it to add a new date. But alas, the park clean up must have also included removal of the "old" momentos, the only new remain are those from the past year. Too bad. The trails are better marked, and new signage has been installed identifying the flora and fauna. Bev didn’t like all the "organization".
Over the next few days, we hiked all over the island, including revisiting of Pirate’s Lair. Once the wind had calmed down, we enjoyed the snorkeling on the wall at the north end of the mooring field. We knew that lobster season was closed, and we were treated to nature’s exhibition the reason why. The mega lobsters, at least 5 pounders, were playing hide and seek under the coral heads, but some were crawling right out in the open, some were chasing each other, some fighting, and others doing things that couples do. Although a little voyeuristic, that didn’t stop us from watching! Paul and Denise (Vixen) did a SCUBA dive, and it was wonderful to watch them pirouette under the water doing a wonderful dance.
K&R still had a couple more days of their vacation, and we had a couple more islands to share with them. One night at Normans, where they snorkeled the plane, and had a beer at the reopened McDuff’s – now called the Normans Beach Club. Next, we were off to Alans (not our favourite anchorage) but our guests definitely wanted to see the iguanas.
We had to motor to Nassau, very little wind, where we finally met up with Jim and Dinah on Evergreen IVrest. K&R visited Atlantis and returned with a KFC banquet for all. Their last day was spent shopping at the cruise dock for souvenirs and eating lunch at Potter’s Cay, before they caught a taxi to the airport. Another successful, and possibly their last, tropical holiday on RAFT.