Homeward Bound: the Final Five

The sun sets along the Maryland shore as we approach the mouth of the Delaware

The sun sets along the Maryland shore as we approach the mouth of the Delaware

On the first day of travel my Captain said to me, “Honey we’ll have a following sea.” On the second day of travel my Captain said to me, “Ignore those swells, it’s just a following sea.” On the third day of travel my Captain said to me, “Ignore that thunderstorm, wind will squash the swells and we still have a following sea.” On the fourth day of travel my Captain said to me. “Ignore the pouring rain, no more T-storms, swells are all gone and we still have a following sea.” On the fifth day of travel my Captain said to me, “Five hours of sailing, no more raining, thunderstorms all gone, swells nonexistent and we still have a following sea!”
Kudos to you if you can sing that one. That about sums up our final five days; departing the Chesapeake just after 6am on Monday, arriving Sandy Hook, NJ at 6pm Tuesday and taking three days to land back in Deep River. In between we experienced calm, boring, exciting, tense, heart-pounding, happy, and exhilarating moments that made for a memorable end to our fourth cruising year.
The majority of the 241nm trip from Cape Charles to Sandy Hook was a motor-sail thanks to not quite enough wind too close behind us for us to sail at the required average speed to arrive before dark. We really wanted to arrive by 6:30pm to spend time with Makai. So except for a 4 ½ hr period Monday late afternoon, we either motor-sailed or motored using two engines. Sleeping was easy and while we didn’t do “watches” we both managed to get more sleep than usual. The boats during the night were well-behaved and we never spotted any commercial fishing trawlers. The glow that is Atlantic City appeared long before we ever got close. The best part of this trip north is the short night; dark was present between 9pm and 4:15am, barely enough time to get acclimated to it.

To pass the time I kept tracking of stuff in the water and here is what I counted during daylight hours: 4 dolphin sightings, 1 dead bird, 1 baby bottle, 11 balloons and 2 “others” (undetermined)

Several motor yachts passed us throughout the trip but not until New Jersey (closer to shore helps) did we see other sailing vessels heading north. Many leave from Cape May or Atlantic City and by 8pm several had joined those already anchored at Sandy Hook.
A couple of hours before reaching the Sandy Hook Channel, marine warnings came up for thunderstorms, “capable of producing winds over 30kts, hail and cloud to ground lightning.” Vessels should seek safe harbor.” Sure, we’ll just zoom right in. We’d been watching the approach on the chart plotter; in navigation mode the weather radar (colored blobs showing rain, etc) is overlaid so you can see it easily. The wind had died to 8kts so we dropped the main and began motoring using both engines. Could we get in and anchored in time? Probably not, but we’ll see how it goes.
Who needs a report or delayed radar when you can see exactly what’s happening up ahead? By some miracle (me having used up every prayer and promise in my favor bank) the worst of what was nearby, passed just north of Sandy Hook. The wind kicked up to 24kts for a spell, shifted 180 degrees, the sky darkened but, sorry for the cliche, light shown at the end of the tunnel. By 6pm we’d dropped the hook next to s/v Makai who was anchored near the Coast Guard Station along with four others.

Once the light showers ended, Eric zoomed over to pick us up and get his long-awaited tour of Ortolan. Jackie prepared dinner for us and what a treat to enjoy someone else’s cooking! The protein was Mahi that Roy had caught off Hatteras; delicious. Cut into chunks and sautéed; along with the Mahi Jackie prepared sides of kale, sundried tomatoes and onion; steamed rice, caprese and slaw. Being on Makai felt so much like the Leopard 36 we chartered in BVIs, only it’s larger and easily accommodates 5 people and dog Topaz. Since it’s a charter version, each person/couple has their own cabin and bathroom. Our “meeting up with boat friends” luck was pretty crappy this year, but we are so happy to have met up with those we did. Much thanks Makai for being part of our cruising time.

Wednesday morning as Makai prepares for the very short trip to Atlantic Highlands

Wednesday morning as Makai weighs anchor for the very short trip to Atlantic Highlands

 

Fort Wadsworth sits below the Verrazano Bridge, guarding the entrance to the Upper Bay

Fort Wadsworth sits below the Verrazano Bridge, guarding the entrance to the Upper Bay

 

Looking up at the underside of the Manhattan Bridge

Looking up at the underside of the Manhattan Bridge

This carousel sits between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. Lots of kids waved as we passed

This carousel sits between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. Lots of kids waved as we passed

 

Tower One fills in the skyline with the Brooklyn Bridge (or maybe it's the Manhattan) across the East River

One World Trade Center fills in the skyline with the Brooklyn Bridge (or maybe it’s the Manhattan) across the East River. At 1,776 ft tall, it’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere

And for the Hell Gate report- max speed 10.4 kts because although we were there near maximum flood (current with us heading toward LIS) it wasn’t as strong as other times. A fun ride and since we’d have the current against us by the time we entered LIS, any help is appreciated.

A very scenic cove at Short Beach (Branford) made up for Bridgeport

A very scenic cove at Short Beach (Branford/East Haven) made up for Bridgeport

 

Got a great view of the Thimble Islands (Branford/Guilford line) as we sailed near shore on Friday

Got a great view of the Thimble Islands (Branford/Guilford line) as we sailed near shore on Friday

I’d like to know how often any forecast for LIS weather is even close to accurate. When the rain stopped we decided to leave our Bridgeport anchorage and chose Short Beach as a perfect spot. The wind was to be enough to sail the few late afternoon hours, but we only managed 1 1/2 hours in a 3 1/2 hour trip. Increased north winds at night never happened either but our spot offered great protection as well as scenic beauty.

As you know, good things come to those who wait and boy was it good! Friday’s forecast from a couple of days ago was saying 15-20kts of NW winds; perfect direction and boy would we fly with that much wind. Seas would be low (near the north shore, because LIS runs east to west) and off our stern. That morning as we got up, Russ checked three sources that all said NW 5-10; no sailing in that teeny bit of hanky wind. Again, who needs to read about the weather when you can hear it. As we cranked the engines you could hear the wind pick up and we raised the main asap, headed out the small cove and sailed well for several hours in the Sound before the wind backed down, forcing us to jibe a few times. The benefit of not being pressed for time is you can tack or jibe to keep sailing, rather than douse the sails and begin motoring.

The lighthouses at the Old Saybrook breakwater welcomed us at noon and even the Old Lyme Draw (Amtrak bridge) opened promptly; perfect timing on our part, not anything to do with Mr Grumpy bridge tender.

By 2pm Ms Ortolan was attached to the mooring we’d call home for the coming month. So much to do in that time before leaving for a two month cruise to Maine.

Charleston: we gonna make it?

View of Charleston along the Ashley as seen from our off-channel anchoring spot

View of Charleston along the Ashley as seen from our off-channel anchoring spot

Weather, tide, wishes and desires often clash but those little bits and pieces can be reassembled into a crew-acceptable plan that often equals or exceeds expectations. Our next real stop after the New River was Beaufort, SC (you said, “Bew”, right?)   Pleasant, low wind days remained in the forecast, but not for much longer. Rain and thunderstorms were headed our way from the Gulf of Mexico. Since our silly crystal ball had rolled overboard, we couldn’t be sure exactly when; Tues? Wed?

Several decisions needed to be made. Stay in Beaufort until after the “event” or get to Charleston before things got nasty. Can be a one day trip between the two cities but we had a tide problem at the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff (love those names) and that would make our trip take two 6-hour days. We wanted spend up to ta week in Charleston and with no east winds forecasted for a darn long time, the Charleston Maritime Center (where we usually stay) was ideal, but we needed to reserve ahead to ensure we got the spot we wanted.

Rolled the dice and it came up Wednesday. Called, booked and see you then. One night in Beaufort, alas. Walking a mile and ½ to a BI-LO was “fun” but a former boater took pity on us and offered a ride back. The closer Piggly-Wiggly (not much closer though) had closed down 2 mos ago.

Days after I took this shot Russ read that the entire structure was sunk 50 miles offshore as a memorial to two fishermen

Days after I took this shot Russ read that the entire structure (barge and containers) would be sunk 50 miles offshore as part of an extensive memorial reef

Monday we arrived in Charleston. Our original plan to anchor in Church Creek got scratched when we read that the area was covered with crab pots; when we went by it sure looked very full but we met a boat who said they anchored there. Wed was starting to sound really nasty so we contacted Maritime to see if we could come in early. A boat was in that spot but due to leave today so we headed in and found two alternative spots to anchor.

By noon the wind was kickin’ up from the south which isn’t a big deal unless the place you want to drop anchor has a strong current running opposite. Our spot was off the ICW in the Stono River, near St John’s Yacht Harbor. A couple other local boats were anchored in that general area. Anchor went down and we started eating lunch. Uh oh. “Are we dragging?” Yes. We engaged in a rapid-fire discussion of who was to do what because with the strong wind and current, trading jobs would be best. Moved about a boat length further from shore and when Russ pulled back, it sure looked to me like he was just pulling that anchor right along with us. I could see us getting closer to shore and after one more pull I shouted, “We gotta go!!” So we did and moved to the opposite shore further past the marina and the high bridge next to it.

Another check-in with Maritime because now we weren’t sure we wanted to be anchored stern-to the shore when the wind kicked up to lord knows what- 25? Our third and last spot was just off the south channel (ICW) that runs along the peninsula that is historic downtown Charleston. Shallow water in front of us would minimize fetch and we could drag a long ways before hitting land. Plus, maybe just maybe we could get in to the marina Tuesday morning. Wrong.

We finally gave up on the boat who was “waiting for his captain” (even the marina wasn’t buying that story), called the marina best protected from the wind and waves and you might guess which one that was; St John’s Yacht Harbor. They had the perfect slip for us and all we had to do was backtrack 4nm, passing through the Wappoo Creek bascule bridge AGAIN and power our way through Elliot Cut where a 3kt current would be fighting us for a long ¼ mile.

Wappoo Creek Bridge taken from the Charleston Crab House on a May 5- a 92 degree day with a glorious breeze :-)

Wappoo Creek Bridge taken from the Charleston Crab House on a May 5- a 92 degree day with a glorious breeze 🙂

The Captain executed a flawless stern-in docking and we were all smiles as Beau and James caught and tied our lines; finally snug into a slip- one very close to shore. Nice. Quite a few other cruising boats were here too and we chatted with a group up at the Stono Breeze. We reserved an Enterprise rental car for Friday – Monday but until then could use the marina’s loaner van for up to two hours. As much as we like Maritime’s spot-on downtown location, this marina was going to be even better, plus excellent wi-fi and cable TV so we could watch the Derby on Saturday and The Mentalist Sunday night. 🙂

Shopping can be so easy with a car

Shopping can be so easy with a car

We are about to get nailed with the dark red blobs with purple centers

We are about to get nailed by the red blobs with purple centers. Once or twice at least

The nasty wind, rain, thunder and lightning came and went; everyone none the worse for it and happy with the lovely, dry, warm and getting warmer days afterward.

Treasured Tranquil Turtles

Sand Bank Cays with Treasure Cay in distance

Sand Bank Cays with Treasure Cay in distance

So here we are, having decided to extend our stay into April; wondering which way to turn from Guana Cay. How about we let the wind and weather help with that; gee wouldn’t that be a novel idea? Another front was arriving with the west wind part of it relatively benign; however, the 1, 2, 3, front punch after that was downright troubling. I know that you all know that winter hasn’t received the “time for Spring” memo, and the same goes here in the too close to Florida Abacos.

For now, we’d let the wind fill our sails and set a course for Treasure Cay with its long stretch of gorgeous white sand beach that cozies up to turquoise blue water, or is it azure blue? Doesn’t matter really when it’s that beautiful.

Sunday, our next stop would require a mooring in Hope Town or a dock to sit out the next 3 fronts with that nasty clocking around activity. Hey, how about doing the Whale? Low, SW winds would allow nearly any vessel to get past Whale Cay and with high tide around mid-day we could easily take the “Don’t Rock” passage. This meant we’d be looking for a slip at Bluff House Beach Resort and Marina in Green Turtle Cay’s White Sound; possibly for six nights. Darn. Imagine, a restaurant, beach bar, pool, wi-fi, water, power and all the interesting people you meet at a marina- this wasn’t too hard to take. But first, one needs to contact the marina.

Your experience may be different, but here’s ours: 🙂

  • Hail Bluff House on CH16 before coming past the Whale. Eight miles away. No response. Do that 3 times
  • Call them on the phone: result busy. Try that 5 times
  • Listen to announcement on CH16 that phones are down on Green Turtle. Wi-fi too. Sigh
  • Roll dice. Continue past the Whale via Don’t Rock passage over shifting sand bars that look much more shallow than 6 feet

    The rock in the Don't Rock passage- the shallow draft route inside Whale Cay

    The rock in the Don’t Rock passage- the shallow draft route inside Whale Cay

  • Hail Bluff House on CH16 at six miles. Success! They have space. We’re coming in hot!
  • Continue making water that started at 9am and anchor at Joyless Pt, outside of White Sound- Ok so we’re not coming in tonight
  • Launch dinghy and go in to check out the slip ( I mean we haven’t docked in 5 mos) and reserve it for Monday. This process took Russ 45 mins and the dinghy ride was only 5
  • Talk through docking process twice to be sure we each know our job (me that is). Test headsets-OK
  • Process is we go stern-in to the dock, wedging our 23ft between the two pilings, port and starboard. There’s no side dock, just a ladder on the dock at our stern where we’d climb up. I’d have to get lines on the pilings before we backed all the way in
  • Use bad language when headset dies before we get to the dock. Russ executed a perfect back-in, stopping half-way. I needed six tries to get the line around the piling, but the applause felt good. (does it take six people to watch us dock?) Yes, some helped too.
  • Spend 30 mins attaching and adjusting bow, spring, stern lines so that we could get off the boat and still have it snug enough to stay in place for the eventual 33kts.
  • Get into the marina groove and enjoy! 2-4-1 Tranquil Turtles every day at Happy Hour

    Bird in a web- no flight for this lady

    Bird in a web- no flight for this lady

Many boats bouncing around the Sea of Abaco are charter boats; Moorings, Dream Yacht Charters, Cruise Abaco, to name a few. Once in a while the owner may be enjoying his boat, but generally you will see a bareboat charter or a captained one. Not that cruisers are anywhere near perfect boat handlers, but when you are operating an unfamiliar vessel, trying to squeeze 10 days-worth of fun into 7 or less, you may become the center of attention, especially at the dock.

Someone messed up and the dinghy tumbled

Someone messed up and the dinghy tumbled

This charter power cat, Sea Song stayed a few nights, three spaces (can’t really call them slips) down from us. During the docking process which included more wind than we had, it seemed like the owner and friends were aboard as well as a hired captain.  The dinghy gets hoisted on davits. When departing, the captain gunned it to get past the docks in front of him, the dinghy tumbled into the water, its contents taking the plunge. The onlookers yelled, the crew hustled and the captain left the helm to see for himself. Not sure leaving the helm is a good idea, but this way everyone got into my photo- which- sorry- was taken through the Strataglass panel.

Cruiser runs aground leaving at low tide

Cruiser runs aground leaving at low tide

A few days later this small Grand Banks backs out of his space 30 mins before a low tide which is lower than usual. The tender to yacht Koala was ahead of him and when Loon decided to go around the tender, bam! Aground. Naturally, people were watching because well, you get bored and a boat coming or going is worth watching.  Pulling was futile and around 3:30, after the tide rose enough, Loon floated off and after a test drive for damage, nosed back into her space for one more night.

Monday promises to be a busy day of departures. Many boats are looking to cross to FL or GA asap and while we’ll be going the same way, our plan is to spend 4-5 days exploring a few of the cays that lie northwest of Green Turtle. Described with words that also would describe the Jumentos or Warderick Wells, we are very eager to check them out. And for the weather to settle.

Mother Nature Has the Last Laugh

S/v Liberty Clipper and m/v SEALINK out of Nassau have wave protection at the government docks

S/v Liberty Clipper and m/v SEALINK out of Nassau have wave protection at the government docks

The different weather services can and do use different models to create their forecasts. Often two may agree but a third is somewhere out in left field. We always hope that when all the ones we use are in agreement, that they’ve nailed it.. because can they all be wrong???  Isn’t that a leading question? The answer is yes they can!!! And they were and we suffered… but not alone. Thursday was predicted by our two sources to be somewhere around 13-16kts, winds out of the SW, going to west and dropping way down as they clocked around to NW and then north.  Governor’s Harbor is exposed from WNW to NNW so we knew we’d be in for a certain amount of discomfort until the wind and waves moved north and then NE.

The trip began well enough at 8:15 as we began sailing right away in 10-12kts of SW winds. We wanted to sail the entire way before the wind dropped down too much. Oh what a joke. Within the first hour of the 3 ½ hour trip it became clear the forecast was oh so wrong. When the wind hit 20kts we reefed the jib and I began to envision a very unpleasant few minutes when the time came to drop the main. Have I mentioned that this process is not as simple as head into the wind and whoosh the main drops right down into the stack pack? Our speed often exceeded 8kts; great if we’d been racing, but funny, not single other boat departed Rock Sound.

A reasonably good-sized island, Levi Island sits a stone’s throw above the harbor and we briefly considered anchoring there for protection but with SW wind, it wasn’t any better than the harbor. We chose the lesser of the weevils, so we thought, and figured we could tuck in fairly close to shore in the southern corner. Wrong again. Some floating house raft thing with AIS named KhanTiki or something close to that, was anchored exactly where we wanted to be.

Never saw anyone aboard, but they had the best spot in the harbor. This was taken in calm conditions

Never saw anyone aboard, but they had the best spot in the harbor. This was taken in calm conditions

Anchoring with the shore at one’s stern is not desirable and we could have moved to Levi, but the forecast had promised the winds would lessen and so too would the large swells entering the medium-sized harbor. To make things more interesting, the charts indicated “poor holding” unless you could find a sandy spot or get closer to the beach where sand was abundant. Our first attempt was perfect; the anchor grabbed right away, but we found our stern in 4ft and that was not going to work since the swells caused a great deal of pitching which made the rudders touch bottom. We eyeballed a spot that looked sandy further away and dropped the hook. I’m at the bow as usual and if I hadn’t been so focused on doing my job I might have noticed how large the swells had become and how much we were bobbing up and down in them. This was a new one for the log book.

The anchor didn’t grab right away but then it seemed to hold fast and after I attached the bridle and we pulled back again, she didn’t budge. Needless to say, we cursed the weather, watched the chartplotter to be sure we weren’t dragging, set two drag alarms, and waited in vain for the wind to shift to a non-west direction. I was extra bummed because we could see seafood being sold from two fishing cleaning stations over on the shore road that runs along the beach.

View from our stern of the beach and harbor-side buildings at low tide

View from our stern of the beach and harbor-side buildings at low tide

By 5pm the wind had dropped down to 10kts out of the NW but the swells, which take longer to change direction, were hitting us broadside so preparing dinner was fun. Two monohulls had anchored behind Levi and from a distance they appeared to have made the better choice.

I almost believed Russ when he assured me that, “tomorrow will be a better day and we can spend time ashore.” No doubt he still wasn’t giving up on the lunatic forecasters.  Mother Nature had continued to outfox us all; Friday was quite the weather day; it began with pouring rain at 5am, increased wind and distant lightning. Rain on and off all day, moderate NW to NE back to NW winds with a peak at 24kts one time.

This is not my idea of a better day- compare the sea state to that calm one at Rock Sound

This is not my idea of a better day- compare the sea state to that calm one at Rock Sound

During the day a small sailboat about 26ft anchored close to us and one of the two from Levi anchored on our other side a better distance away. Conditions were slightly improved once the wind shifted more north but those boats, especially the smaller one rolled from side to side and pitched in the swells that I was becoming seasick just watching. By 3pm things were looking calmer and a “better day tomorrow” for Saturday was beginning to sound believable. At least all anchors were holding; can’t rely on what the charts say either- for which we were immensely thankful. Note: we talked with the two Levi Island boats on Sat and they said that even Chris Parker was fooled by Mother Nature this time.

South Palmetto -Ten Bay – Rock Sound

Rain approaches as we make our way toward South Palmetto Pt

Rain flattens the waves as we make our way toward South Palmetto Pt

Plan A: sail to Rock Sound, approx. 42nm trip and after spending a few days, work our way up Eleuthera to Spanish Wells

Plan B: sail to South Palmetto Point a 52nm trip and anchor at Pau Pau Bay then backtrack to Rock Sound for provisions, laundry, etc and have protection from the SW winds expected Wed, then head north.

Reality: sailed to Kemps Point and as we turned north toward SPP, the wind died and shifted from SE to South, dropped the main and motored. Poured rain when 4nm out from SPP and the temp dropped from 84 to 71 in 15 mins. Passed at least 6-8 lines of white floats which we guessed might be crab pots.

We made great time, but we got going at 7:15 to be sure and arrived at South Palmetto Pt at 3:30. Russ declared that Pau Pau Bay (small but good holding in sand close to shore) was no good with any kind of south winds. Very close by was Sheep Cay but the bottom was hard and rocky and after 3 tries we gave up. Also tried where the chart book said was the best (and they use that word loosely in Eleuthera) anchoring, off the old town dock, and that too was almost as bad. Next option was to head south about 2nm to Ten Bay which offered protection from NE to South. The chart indicated sand and grass, but we needed to get ourselves anchored before the sun got so low that we couldn’t see the bottom. We found more sand than grass and the Rocna dug in acceptably well.

Noticed another cat, s/v Salty Paws anchored in the northern part of the small bay and they confirmed “crabs” when we saw the one they’d speared the next morning. It looked like a grunge large land crab. Although ESE at 14kts gusting 16 is not a big deal when sailing, or when anchored with protection, it is when the waves and swells head for exposed shoreline.

We wanted to walk around SPP – I mean we did alter Plan A just to check out a new place since Rock Sound would be mostly closed down on a Sunday. The wooden section of the dock was still usable but the concrete part that connected to shore was ruined, so we had to land on the beach.

Using a bow and stern anchor has proven invaluable to anchoring safely and easily".

Using a bow and stern anchor has proven invaluable to anchoring safely and easily”.

Oh that was fun in the swells but our method of turning Bunting into the waves after tossing in the small Fortress works well. I hold the anchor line at the bow, slowly letting more out until the captain says “stop”, then tie the line at the bow tab. Russ gets out at the stern holding the second (folding grapnel) anchor line walks toward shore and pulls the dinghy in so I can climb out into hopefully less than one ft of water. We gather our stuff, let the dinghy out a bit so she’s floating then put the grapnel in sand on the beach. This takes practice and patience and we have now had plenty of both.

Once an enclosed public restroom, now with a water view

Once an enclosed public restroom, now with a water view

We walked the road that lead to the Queen’s Highway and came upon Nate and Jenny’s restaurant- oh bummer they don’t open until 5pm on Sundays- no surprise there. Street signs indicate population and prosperity but plenty of places, including a good-sized market, were no longer in business. The 22nm trip down to Rock Sound was a motor, make water one that we expected to do in low South-ish winds, but ended up being 11-15kts… right on our nose(s).

Crabbers collecting the day's catch from their pots

Crabbers collecting the day’s catch from their pots

Rock Sound Harbor offers most everything a cruiser could want, including 3-sided protection; you only have southern exposure but even that is moderately mitigated by distant shore. The first order of business included a grocery stop and since we’d be near a liquor store and ATM, those were easy too.

The gas jug for the outboard was dangerously low.

Pay the attendant, who pumps vehicles but not gas jugs. Just like years ago.

Pay the attendant, who pumps vehicles but not gas jugs. Just like years ago, he’s got a huge wad of cash.

The Esso station is the same short walk and we declined two ride offers on the way back in order to work those muscles. We each hold the handle and carry the jug between us.

Lunch and a tall cool beverage at Pascal’s was welcome after several trips back and forth. We each ordered a Parrot Punch which was a lovely green thanks to curacao mixed with pineapple and orange juices, not to mention three rums. We caught the end of the entertainment lunch for the cruise ship folk who come by Eleuthera Adventures bus from the Princess cruise ship anchorage down at the tail end of the island.

Cruise ship folk get lunch and a taste of Junkanoo at Pascal's

Cruise ship folk get lunch and a taste of Junkanoo at Pascal’s

By Tuesday we were one of a dozen boats clustered in the “good holding” section near Pascal’s.

Flat, calm anchorage near Pascal's at Rock Sound

Flat, calm anchorage near Pascal’s at Rock Sound- the freight boat is at the govt dock

S/v Time Enough II organized a cruiser happy hour at Pascal’s who offered reduced prices on drinks and appetizers.

We’d gone in for laundry at 3Ts that morning, another clean and reasonably priced Laundromat owned and operated by the friendly and obviously educated Villimae. S/v Side by Side (Manta catamaran) told us of the get together and we were impressed that they knew Ortolan was a Maine Cat.  The ashore happy hour was a great success and we met many new boats, exchanged boat cards, stories and travel plans. Surprisingly, about 40% of the boats were heading south, but then not everyone crossed very early like we did.

Tuesday afternoon we’d planned lunch at Rosie’s Nort’Side but a large dark cloud with water spout kept us aboard instead.  Forget the Chinese calendar, this is the year of waterspouts.

Wednesday morning we walked a ways down the main road to check out the ocean hole and caves. A well-marked entrance was appreciated as was the sign display with birds, etc described.

Entrance to the ocean (boiling hole) . Russ reads up on what we might see

Entrance to the ocean (boiling hole) . Russ reads up on what we might see

A calm ocean hole- no big waves in the harbor means no turbulence in the hole

A calm ocean hole- no big waves in the harbor means no turbulence in the hole

Wednesday afternoon, most of us moved across the harbor to gain protection from the westerly winds and waves that would steadily intensify overnight.

The other side of Rock Sound Harbor. We head in for a low tide beach exploration

The other side of Rock Sound Harbor. We head in for a low tide beach exploration

We copy another cat and set up our folding chairs in the space normally occupied by Bunting

We copy another cat and set up our folding chairs in the space normally occupied by Bunting

Thursday looked good to move up to Governor’s Harbor, the capital of The Bahamas prior to Nassau.

Bitter Guana’s Iguanas

Ortolan at anchor with Staniel Cay in the distance

Ortolan at anchor with Staniel Cay in the distance

We are happy that time and weather have allowed us to visit new places as well as many favorites. Sunday the 16th was a gorgeous, barely a breath of wind day. After Staniel we needed to backtrack south to Black Point for laundry and a loaf of – bet you can guess- Mom’s coconut bread. We still had most of the batch we’d backed, but no one on Ortolan complains about eating coconut bread French toast instead of cereal. Although cruisers might not do well at knowing the date or day of the week, we do need to know “Come Sunday.” Most shops, etc are closed either all day or may only open for a few hours in the morning.  No point in rushing the seven miles to Black Point on a perfectly wonderful day; ideal for exploring a new place (with a beach of course), Bitter Guana Cay which lies in between Staniel and Black Point.

When heading south on the banks (west) side from Staniel, you have two choices; either go the long way out and around Harvey Cay, or if your draft allows you can take the shorter, direct route closer to shore.

The spot to anchor off the beach is very pretty with a sparkling view of the white limestone cliff at the southern end of the beach.

White underside of cliff as we dinghy down to South Gaulin Cay

White underside of cliff as we dinghy down to South Gaulin Cay

Bitter Guana Cay and her neighbor, South Gaulin Cay are home to the endangered Rock Iguanas. They greet everyone who lands on the beach, hoping for a tasty fruit or veggie morsel, even though people are requested not to feed them.boat and beach

We climbed up the cliff for an expansive 360 degree view and agreed that today was a Bahamas picture-perfect day; water shades from clear to deep blue surrounded by blue sky.

Refusing to be left behind, I climbed up too- wasn't too hard

Refusing to be left behind, I climbed up too- wasn’t too hard

We dinghied a short ways to South Gaulin Cay for more iguana viewing and along the way noticed a huge osprey nest on the very point of a “high” cliff. No one chased us away, although the iguanas act like they are doing just that; they are curious and looking for a handout.

This guy is ready to be served at the table

This guy is ready to be served at the table

Our afternoon dinghy trip took us north toward South Staniel and we even stuck our nose out into the Sound to check on a small beach, but a small reef close created too much swell at the beach. The area at South Staniel includes the airport; a busy place with private planes, commercial flights and Watermaker’s Air making several stops every day.

Plane approaches the airstrip at Staniel

Plane approaches the airstrip at Staniel

Some planes run into trouble and become a curiosity and home to sea life in shallow water.

This one didn't quite leave the island

This one didn’t quite leave the island

As usual we spotted rays and needlefish and we did see something new.  Back aboard around 5pm we watched an osprey indulge in a lengthy bathing routine at the water’s edge.

Bath time

Bath time

We wondered why he/she chose a spot at least a mile from the nest. Perhaps this was a weary female in need of a spa visit 🙂

Bells Island Deja Vu

A front usually brings rain, wind and a temperature drop

A front usually brings rain, wind and a temperature drop

Wednesday found us anchored behind Bells Island (some charts say Bells Cay) awaiting the arrival of a cold front that would bring up to 25kt winds out of the SW to West. With some exceptions, most of the Bahama islands and cays offer no west protection during the clocking winds that often occur when a cold front passes over or comes very close to your location. Last year just after Valentine’s Day we hid here from a front, and now here we are again.

We had plenty to keep us busy all day Thursday: defrosting the fridge was tops on the list, backed up the laptop to the hard drive (way overdue), cracked open our coconuts and baked coconut bread (near perfect loaves this time), baked chocolate macaroons and got frequently distracted by the T-storms that passed by- rain, lightning, thunder- quite the show every time.

Two cuties- Russ tries to imitate the cute coconut face

Two cuties- Russ tries to imitate the cute coconut face

I prepped photos for the blog but that’s about all the blog work I could do.  Entries are way behind because lately I either haven’t had good enough cell service to tether, no WiFi or just been having too much fun to spend time in front of the laptop.

Getting a blog post ready to publish requires more steps than your favorite lighthouse.

  • download photos from camera, crop and fix as needed, label and add tags
  • select the ones for the blog and make them “smaller” for easier uploading
  • open Firefox and WordPress and upload the chosen pics to the media library
  • close Firefox,open IE and WordPress and copy and paste the text from Word
  • select photos from media library and hope they go where you want them
  • proofread, edit the publish date to be close to the event date, add tags
  • click Publish and then review the suggested corrections, etc
  • OK now click Publish again and this time the post is done and published

All these steps rarely occur during one session and if the internet connection isn’t lost once or twice during the process I feel luckier than a lobster in the Land and Sea Park.

Friday we sailed 15nm south to Staniel Cay where we’d spend a couple of days and meet up with s/v Makai.

Little Halls Pond Cay is owned by Johnny Depp

Little Halls Pond Cay is owned by Johnny Depp

We left Bells Island by rounding it counter-clockwise and looking right, a bit north of Bells, we could see the privately owned Little Halls Pond Cay. We’d thought we’d watch a Pirates movie, but alas, our other family pirate member has the DVD.