Jumpin’ Jumentos!: Swells, Cave and Fast Sail

Two Palms now One Palm.... some day no palms

Two Palms now One Palm…. some day no palms

The move, all one mile (probably less) of it brought us over the two anchoring spots on the cay’s west (protected) side. The preferred place was off of Two Palms Beach, which sadly now is only One Palm Beach. I wonder how long the charts will still keep it as Two Palms? We know it’s been one for at least a year. Two cats- our Aussie friends from Water Cay- were there already so we snuck in next to a monohull and in front of another in 8ft of water with a sandy bottom at the next beach.

First stop, the dinghy drive-in cave just around the corner. Visions of Thunderball Grotto appeared in our heads as we approached and cautiously entered the large cave with stalactites and sky lights.dinghy-in cave

Inside the cave- enough head room at high tide and enough depth for the outboard

Inside the cave- enough head room at high tide and enough depth for the outboard

Looking straight up at one of the cave's skylights

Looking straight up at one of the cave’s skylights

We’d walked Two Palms Beach earlier so landed Bunting on the beach in front of us. Our senses heightened thanks to our osprey friends the day before, we swear we could hear an osprey cry and as we looked up at the abandoned light on the hill, there sat an osprey at the top. Or was it? I snapped a picture anyway. The beach offered several small conch shells to add to those I’d picked up the other day and we found the path up to the light. You know, the small white light with the small solar panel that viewed from a distance at the right angle looks like an osprey. Yes, that one.

We did get a photo of Ortolan at anchor but the sun was right in the way, so it wasn’t blog worthy. The cactus grew well and wide on the hillside, one with flowers and another with large plum-like fruits on the leaves. Perhaps a prickly-pear?cactus

While I did one last beach tour, Russ hung out and got awesome shots of some very vocal birds. bahamian birdAbout that swell; better after we moved over, but worsened throughout the night as the wind picked up. Happy that we’d moved.

Come Wednesday, once we got underway flying those white hankies and moving along at 8kts on a beam reach, the swell was inconsequential. Free Bird provided an updated forecast that indicated more wind (yeah- like right now) and staying upwards of 18kts for at least five days. No front in sight though which always makes us very happy.

The tricky part of our return trip to George Town was transiting Hog Cay cut but not at low tide or within 2 hours of it; but that’s assuming you know the time of low and high tide. Someone decided long ago that Nassau, being the important spot in the Bahamas, should be the area where the tides are “accurately” calculated and most others are based off that. For example, on the George Town morning Net along with the weather, the Nassau tides are given each day. The Explorer charts have the Nassau tides going out several years, but unless you buy a new chart, eventually the tide data gets old. An oft-asked question on the Net is, “how does the tide in Elizabeth Harbor compare to Nassau?” Answer, “Ask 10 cruisers, get 10 different answers. But generally it’s the same, give or take 15 mins.” We agree.

Tide times are a source of lively discussion between the Captain and his Admiral; usually “close enough” is good enough but at a time like this, going through a cut where you KNOW the water is low and you’ve never gone through before, well, it would be nice to get it right. Fortunately we’d talked to others in previous years about the cut and to Free Bird that morning who felt with our draft we could safely go through around 2pm. They needed another full foot of tide and believed that the tide at Hog Cay was roughly one half hour after Nassau, which put low at 1pm. We felt comfortable shooting for 3pm, because even though we trusted their experience we also had tide info for a spot a few miles away that indicated one and ½ hours after Nassau; let’s hedge while still being able to get into the harbor before dark.

So what happens when you are sailing along briskly and comfortably? Going too fast, that’s what. The only way to slow down sufficiently was to drop the main and plod along at 4kts with only the jib. At 2:15 Free Bird passed us and we thought how brave they were and surely we’d be fine when we got there.  About ½ mile away, didn’t they drop their sails, but then dropped the hook. We went ahead, me on the bow to point out any “black things in the water. The worrisome spot is only 3ft at low and while much of the cut is deep with a sand bottom, this 15 yard stretch is a rocky bottom that the water can’t cut away fast enough.

Getting closer to the cut

Getting closer to the cut

Here we are past the shallow hard-bar spot and into deeper water

Here we are past the shallow hard-bar spot and into deeper water

This section is truly one for the books, a classic example depicted in the chart books where you need good water-reading skills, if only just for interest. After expelling a collective sigh of relief, we hailed Free Bird to say that the lowest depth was 5.3 ft.  Sounded like they’d go through soon but probably anchor nearby for the night since dark would fall before they’d get back.

Once past the cut we hung a left and covered twelve miles in two hours of motor-sailing and sailing in the lee of the islands, the wind out of the SE.

Closing in on Elizabeth Harbor's south entrance

Entering Elizabeth Harbor’s south entrance

Dropped the anchor at 5:35 (sunset is 5:48), exactly nine hours after leaving Flamingo Cay. Dropped the main after the anchor to save time. All in all, a swell and interesting day on the water with no mishaps!

NOAA to Deep-Six Paper Charts

A portion of the chart showing the channel into Norfolk from the Chesapeake (to north)

A portion of the chart showing the channel into Norfolk from the Chesapeake (to north)

We read a news blurb about the demise of the heavy paper charts that NOAA has been printing and selling for years. They state that by doing do, money will be saved. Then the article goes on to say that the charts sell for cost, around $20 each. So unless the article left out a few details, which is very possible, since when does break-even mean losing? Just because we all rely, although not solely, on electronic charts doesn’t mean paper isn’t wanted.

We have paper charts on board for nearly every area we go to, and others we talk with say they do too. Yes, many people go to places online or brick & mortar who will print the needed charts. I suppose that meets the immediate need, but what about history? All those aged charts that have found a second life as a framed piece on a wall. All those table-sized chart books with big-picture pages followed by a zoomed-in view, covering several hundred miles in each booklet. Just because many (most?) paper charts are outdated and this supposed money saved could be spent on extensive surveying, doesn’t mean the boating community doesn’t want those heavy paper, cumbersome charts that link us to days of old.
What next? No weather? 
I know that most boaters have outdated charts and they do not update them. If you are diligent and spend the money your electronic charts can be as up-to-date as possible- and that’s a good thing. You should also have redundancy for when your primary electronics go down or get fried, perhaps in the form of charts on your iPad or laptop at least.

So all this being said, we like to supplement our electronic charts with paper for two reasons. One is that with our Garmin charts if you aren’t in the correct zoom level you will not see that small but important buoy or marker. And just to make things interesting, the correct zoom level is not the same all the time. The second reason I mentioned before and that is a paper chart can provide a good big-picture view of where you are and where you are going. When we leave the ICW, are sailing off-shore or in some larger body of water I always want to see the big picture and so does Russ as this helps him get his bearings.

Paper charts are like comfort food; not absolutely necessary just wonderful to have.

My take-away from NOAA’s announcement is that if we keep our paper NOAA charts they could be worth something some day in the future. If nothing else, we’ll have an assortment of wall hangings for our future little bungalow.