Black Point to Pipe Cay

So busy we had to wait our turn for two washers

So busy we had to wait our turn for two washers

The protected harbor at Black Point was very full- more than we’d expected- most boats headed north, but some still moving south. The to-do list included, laundry, coconut bread, use wifi to move iPhone photos to the Photo Stream and hopefully Skype with Benj.

Any grocery items at the market would be a plus and I was happy to snag the last dozen eggs. Mr Adderley told us that the Bahamian government had just increased the import tax on eggs to 30%! Yikes. Egg prices throughout the islands are reasonable, often less than $3 for large, VL or jumbo eggs. We read a newspaper article the other day that shed some light on this tax increase and my take-away was that the government has egg on its face! Too little too late was the sentiment expressed. Local egg producers had already gone belly-up and crossed the road to rely on other means of a livelihood. Making imported eggs more expensive should have occurred 4-5 years ago, not now when the result will be less profit for the grocer, based on the allowed markup.

Several times we’ve noted how we’ve seen not one other Maine Cat, either a 30 or 41, this year. So what do we see as we approach the anchorage and head for the spot we want? Yep-a MC 41 named Snazzy Kitty, with very snazzy graphics on her bows. (sorry no photo). She is MC41 hull #3 (we are 21) and Larry and Melanie bought her last summer from the original owner. They are no strangers to Maine Cat; they own Moondoggy who’s in charter in Hope Town. Snazzy is also in charter so they are headed for Hope Town by March 5th. We had them over so they could see changes since #3 was built and see what we’d added or updated ourselves.

Tuesday afternoon we did another “depart at 2pm-ish” move, 13nm north to Pipe Cay. This is another favorite place and would place us 14nm south of Warderick Wells and within VHF calling distance to get on the list for a mooring Thursday and Friday nights. Moorings can be requested for the current or following day so Wednesday morning during the 9am Exuma Park announcements we got on the list.

Shortly after switching back to Channel 16 we heard a vessel hailing Traveling Soul. We’d been hoping to meet up with them as we both moved up and down the Exumas and last we knew they were in George Town. I called and learned they were headed to Nassau for some repairs but they altered their plans and said they’d meet us at Warderick when we arrived Thursday. Sweet!

The day was spent exploring both east and west sides of Pipe Cay. We found several pieces of what looked like wooden planks from a sunk and washed up boat. The piece Russ broke off one end would make a perfect replacement plaque for an Ortolan sign on Boo Boo Hill. Our other one did not fare well and we found it broken last season amid the pile of driftwood signs.

Many discarded conch shell piles dot  Pipe Cay's east side beach

Many discarded conch shell piles dot Pipe Cay’s east side beach

The fuel freighter, Tropic Breeze was anchored a short distance behind us waiting for a boat to come get its fuel for the generators that are used on the islands to generate power. Larger islands have a BEC power plant but the little guys are on their own. Before we left in the morning she’d moved on to her next delivery up near Halls and Little Halls Pond Cay.

Tropic Breeze as she's about to pass behind us

Tropic Breeze as she’s about to pass behind us

Shortly after we left we crossed paths with Tropic Breeze who had the right of way (being on our right side) but we since we were sailing (at a brisk 8kts) we felt sure she would take our stern. We would usually give way to a priority vessel, especially since if she had restricted maneuverability AND on our starboard side, we’d be the vessel expected to get out of the way- and who’d want to collide with a fuel tanker?

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.

A Typical Cruising Day

Dinette table in cruising mode

Welcome to a sneak peek into the cockpit, command central aboard Ortolan.  This shot shows the dinette fulfilling its daytime role as nav station. We have roughly two different types of traveling days; one is when we are in the ICW traveling through the dredged channel in rivers, sounds, bays and man -made land cuts and the second is non-ICW travel which was the 622 miles before reaching ICW Mile 0  at Norfolk, VA and any day we “go outside”.

The primary difference is that with non-ICW days we use the laptop as a backup chartplotter to the one installed at the helm. If the main chartplotter were to misbehave, we would have the laptop already running.  I generally keep an eye on it and make sure it jives with the main.  The ICW is well marked and getting the laptop up and running wouldn’t need to happen in a blink.

A typical ICW day flows something like this:
Breakfast before departing (most nights we are at anchor) around 8 – 8:30am. Until recently we had to run the heat to warm up but the Florida mornings are warm, a balmy 50 so far. Russ is at the bow using the electric anchor winch to raise the anchor as I man the helm and move the boat in the proper directions based on hand signals. No shouting allowed so we have devised our own signals when we can’t hear the other person easily. No, we don’t use THAT one.  The anchor rinsed and secured, moving ahead slowly, we head off.

I am in charge of the log book and will make the “start of the day” entries as soon as we are underway. Then it’s on to washing the dishes, being careful to conserve water.  We carry 136 gallons of water, 2 tanks in each hull but getting water only occurs at marinas- either when you fuel up or spend the night. We don’t do much of either.

Our typically cruising speed, when not greatly affected by currents is 7 knots (8.06 mph). When adversely affected by current or tides, which in Florida’s ICW change frequently with all the inlets, our speed drops dramatically.

Electronics are great, but nothing beats paper for lack of susceptibility to malfunctioning. Therefore no sailor worth his salt will be without paper charts. For the ICW we use a great flip style one that shows pretty much only the ICW, marks every five miles and contains notes along the side about bridges that need to open for boats and the schedule, if any. Bridges- well that’s another blog entry by itself. We also have another booklet that lists, mile by mile: good anchorages with comments, marinas, bridges with opening notes if they are ones that open, inlet info, and other helpful notes about transiting the ICW. I follow along with the two booklets while Russ runs the boat. I take over from time to time.

Lunch is eaten underway and we take turns so that one person is always at the helm. The auto-pilot is often keeping the boat on course but in ICW close quarters, taking one’s eye off the road for too long can lead to running aground or into something.  Ok, I exaggerate a bit, but some sections of the waterway are very narrow, with barely room for two boats to pass. Most of it is not like that but keeping in the channel is important.
Most days we arrive at our destination by 5pm. Dropping the anchor is generally successful on the first try. Ours is oversized; dragging is near the top of the “never want to do” list.

I finish up the log, having made notes about our day, what we saw, who we met and other things we want to remember. We also record mileage, engine hours, fuel consumption and where we end up each night, both by name and the latitude and longitude.