Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Week 12: Dec. 19-25, 2012 (Day 78-84)

Week 12:

Wed. Dec. 19, 2012—Day 78:
Destination:  Nassau
Winds:  W & light in am, NE 12K by evening
Weather:  sunny, hot & blue skies

Bridge to Atlantis
The visit to Dr. Annette Warren & office was the right decision.  I arrived & was taken before my appointed time.  Nothing horrific found after the examination & xrays, but porcelain chips off 1st & 3rd teeth of my lower left bridge, secondary most likely to my hard bite; no abscess, no infection just inflammation, therefore some grinding & polishing & 3 prescriptions ($250.00).  The dentist & staff were very pleasant, efficient & professional with the latest of equipment.  Prescriptions filled & home by 1000 hrs.  Other activities of the day: filling the fuel & water tanks, cleaning the deck, cockpit & transom, washing the enclosure windows, long walk along East Bay Rd. to downtown for banking, a horrible haircut for me, a beer at Hammerhead Bar (local), a walk up one side of Potters Cay & down the other & purchasing a few articles at Solomon’s Super Market ie milk.  Happy Hour was enjoyed on ‘Ambition’ over the supper hour.  We tried for free internet at Solomon’s with a connection but no internet, so down to Starbuck’s before they closed at 2100 hrs.  Graeme examined Wind Alert for the Exumas for the next 7 days on my laptop, while I glanced at my netbook for emails, only answering a few that time allowed.  We have been impressed with Wind Alert website; easy to comprehend by 2 neophytes but just need internet access.  A warm night yet a coolish NE wind kicked up.  A nearing ½ moon was seen earlier, clear skies & stars with a few clouds.

Thurs. Dec. 20, 2012—Day 79:
Destination:  Nassau, New Providence to Highborne Cay
Departure:  0710 hrs.            Arrival:  1640 hrs.            Distance:  34.6 NM (charts) 55.2 NM (boat)
Winds:  ESE to SE 13-18K, decreased to 10-13K                             Seas:  2-4 ft.
Weather:  sunny with only a few clouds, pleasantly warm temps

I experienced anxiety & butterflies once again before we departed mainly because of a very strong cold front predicted for Fri. evening through Sat. & the fact that we were off alone again.
Lots of hands were on the dock to let us off our slip; well done.  Out of harbour via the east end with Nassau Harbour Control’s permission.  We headed to Porgee Rocks (about 5 NM), then the VPR route over the lower section of Middle Ground & the northern part of the Yellow Banks (numerous scattered coral heads).  We motorsailed in a SSE direction, on a beat with the jenny, carrying a speed of 6.0- 6.4K, gliding nicely through the 2 ft. rollers & crashing down in the troughs of the 4 footers.  Because we were sailing into the sun & the chopped state of the sea with rollers, Graeme wisely chose to take a more southerly route to avoid the more numerous number of coral heads slightly to the north, but then we had to tack X 2 to our destination to the NE.  I doned my foul weather jacket to be protected from the salt water & spray, standing & bracing 1 foot on the starboard rail & 2 hands tightly squeezing the starboard handle of the dodger when we were in the coral head area.  At times Graeme sat crossways on the ICW seat bracing his feet on the starboard lazarette or simply standing behind the wheel with feet in a wide stance; auto was great at steering & keeping us on course.  The SE winds decreased coincidentally once we tacked to avoid a charted rock & then tacked back to corrected our direction to Allans Cay.  We were now cruising the Exuma Cays!
The Exuma Cays, Great Exuma Island & Abacos are the 2 most popular cruising destinations in the Bahamas.  They are 95 NM long with exquisite water, an endless succession of cays (islands) & places with fuel, food & fellow cruisers.  They run NW to SE from 25oN to 23oN, are 35 NM SE from Nassau & New Providence to the remote southern Out Islands.  The east side (deeper water) is called Exuma Sound with higher seas & the west (shallower & protected from the prevailing SE winds) is called Exuma Bank with less winds, gentler seas & better conditions.               

We entered Allans Cay, a group of 3 islands, Allans, Southwest Allans & Leaf Cay, into the sheltered waters between these cays.  Already there were 9 sailboats in the north anchorage & 1 in the south.  We anchored X 3 but unhappy with the locations, protection & holding in the 3rd spot.  Allans Cay is the home to iguanas, remaining prehistoric looking lizards found here & only the Out Islands.  We decided to move a short distance (1/2 hour) further south to Highborne Cay, a private island with limited privileges to cruisers, anchoring along the western coast, off the beach in 12 ft. & ?80-100 ft. chain (I lost track); 8 boats in total.  We had our 1st Bahamian sunset!  Scattered clouds crossed passed part of the sun; ? green flash followed by a red sky.  The wind generator was switched on & whirling.  A half moon was present this evening, clear skies with some clouds & stars.

No Green Flash, but hopefully many more of these!

Fri. Dec. 21, 2012—Day 80:  
Destination:  Highborne Cay to Cambridge Cay, Exuma Land & Sea Park
Departure:  0705 hrs.         Arrival:  1335 hrs.              Distance:  37.4 NM (chart)      NM (boat)
Winds:  AM: SSW 10K to SW 11-13K  PM: SW toW to N 20-25K + gusts            Seas:  1-2 ft.
Weather:  warm, mainly sunny with clouds filling in the afternoon; angry clouds from the west through the north + rain squall

As the wind clocked ESE & SE to the south during the night, it became a little rolly polly.  C.P.’s reception was a bit better this am; we caught just the 1st ½ hr., then we up anchored, hoping for a place to hide from another but very strong cold front to hit late pm.  Unfortunately instead of  heading west, we took a more southerly exit which put us in the shallows & in making a 360 to turn back, the keel hit ?coral (hard).  Also unfortunate was the fact that we were passing all these wonderful & numerous cays we or at least I hoped to explore ie Normans, Shroud, Hawksbill Cays.  We motorsailed on the jenny at a speed of 6-6.4K.  We thought we had missed Highborne Cay Net (VHF 16 to 09) at 0730 hrs. & Warderick Wells (VHF 16 to 09) at 0800 hrs., but at 0815 hrs. the weather forecast from Highborne broke in.  At 0900 hrs. Exuma Park broadcasted mooring ball assignments & asked if anyone was leaving & if there was anyone who wanted a ball. 
A boat wanting a mooring ball can make a request one day in advance.  If lucky a boat may get an assignment that day if so desired.  If there are no mooring balls available a boat is put on a waiting list for the following day & must listen to the next day’s 0900 hrs. announcements.

As we cruised along admiring the water colour we kept Normans Stake & Elbow Cay well off to port, as well as Cistern Bore, Lightning Bore, Long Rock Bore, Bell Island Bore & Rocky Dundas Bore.  Keeping Fowl Cay to starboard we followed the Conch Channel towards Conch Cut (to Exuma Sound) making a 90o turn at Cambridge Cay/Little Bell Cay past shallow coral heads, rocky bars, sandbars to the mooring field maintained by Exuma Park.  We had the choice of mooring ball; no one was here; we were all alone again, now waiting for the pending storm.  And right on schedule it showed it’s ugly head, first with dark, swift moving clouds in the north, NW & west.  By 1600 hrs. SW winds increased & shifted rapidly to the north, whitecaps had formed, < 1 ft. chop because of the protection of surrounding land & little fetch.  This location was a good decision on Graeme’s part.  Suddenly there was no visibility of land & a wall of rain (squall) came from the NNW & N + steady 25K winds.  The exterior of the boat was getting a good wash from the sea salt encrusted almost everywhere.  Once the rains ceased after about overnight & all of tomorrow.  By bedtime the howling continued but the clouds had thinned & a ½ moon peeked through, then nothing but clear skies & glorious bright stars.

Sat. Dec. 22, 2012—Day 81:
Destination:  Cambridge Cay, Exuma Park
Winds:  N 20-25K settling to 15-20K for most of day, then 10-15K at sunset   Seas:  1 ft.
Weather:  mostly sunny with some clouds but cool north breeze

After the cold front went through late yesterday afternoon the north winds blew & howled all night 20-25K with frequent gusts of 30+K.  I slept just the same while Graeme slept the evening away so was on & off sleep through the night.  We listened to weather from Chris at 0630 hrs. & Highborne Cay VHF 16 to 12 at 0800 hrs. & the boatlist from Exuma Park at 0900 hrs.; winds were predicted to continue to blow at 20+K all day with some relief tomorrow & more so Mon., Christmas Eve.  We will call in the am (1 day ahead) to be put on the waitlist for a mooring ball in the north field for Mon. 

The Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park extends over 22 mi. from Wax Cay in the north to Compass Cay in the south, covering 176 sq. mi.of cays, rocks, coral reefs, fish breeding grounds & subtropical waters.

A bit of housekeeping & locating Christmas decorations, listening to occasional chatter on the VHF, no internet, nor phone signal to even call Lynn & Larry to see how they are doing.  I guess by now people know that they did not & will not be crossing as Lynn was hospitalized for another bout of pneumonia.  We miss them dearly!  Here we sit alone with gorgeous shades of aqua water with white crests, 1 ft. chop max., beaches & shoreline to walk, rocky trails to climb & explore, several wonderful snorkeling spots & dinghy exploring amongst Rocky Dundas (caves), Cambridge Cay, Bell Island, O’Briens Cay (Sea Aquarium & Coral Gardens to snorkel), Soldier Cay, Little Halls Pond Cay & Halls Pond Cay, but today was much too windy & too cold.  We have been lucky to have done many of these in the past.  A 2/3 moon in the afternoon sky, an orange sky at sunset & the first day of the days getting longer. 

Not just today but on several occasions I’ve thought that I don’t have the right frame of mind from the beginning of this trip.  Too much weather has held us up & caused us to use marinas & mooring balls than anchoring preferably.  Too much salt air, salt spray, salt water, dampness of the sheets climbing into bed most nights, inactivity, non productivity, confinement were sometimes bothersome.  And a great desire for other new adventures.  I often spend my free time like this aft sitting outdoors in the protection of the enclosure reading, suduko, & pondering my life; how much I like being outside/outdoors which might be part of my love gardening & of playing sports most of my life rather than spending hours indoors reading (although I enjoy a good book, time permitting) or becoming more adept & skilled in culinary ways.  Although for the most part I enjoyed my career, I often thought how I wished I had followed & worked with my dad in carpentry & construction, such practical & useful knowledge.  On several occasions whether it be drifting along in the Chesapeake, or calmly & gently cruising the ICW or the Bahamas, or simply at a calm anchorage, I found myself just looking & not thinking, of inner peace, happiness & tranquility & other times of inner turmoil & sadness with tears flowing.  I believe I have learnt more about myself because of the availability of time until I’m back in the rat race of city life.  I wish to share a few quotes from a wonderful & delightful book I just finished: “When it comes to kindness, there are some people you can’t catch up with & just knowing them, having their respect, being friends with them, gives a man a good feeling.”  “And it  occurred to me it was a cry-baby & cowardly thing to wail, as do so many of our frustrated city dwellers, that life has no deep meaning or reasoned plan that the individual can fathom.  For even if this be true, & no matter what life signifies, including nothing, it can still be a rather wonderful adventure, if you allow yourself to adventure in it.”

Sun. Dec. 23, 2012—Day 82:
Destination:  Cambridge Cay
Winds:  E 13-15K
Weather:  partly sunny with fair weather clouds, coolish breeze, dry; mid afternoon some grey clouds as well as at sunset, L 63F

This is the view from our front window!

I woke briefly during the night to what sounded like the mooring ball tapping against the hull, especially when there was a lull in the wind, something different than the last 2 nights.  Looking up through the hatch I could see an enormous number of stars.  After rising the boat was now facing east; a change in wind direction as well as strength & now I wondered if tidal currents were having an effect which was the possible explanation for the mooring ball tapping on the hull, but I had not taken note of the early hour.  At 0830 hrs. ‘Blue Yonder’ had no weather or tides but a schedule of events for Christmas Week at Staniel Cay.  And at 0900 hrs. Exuma Park gave us a terrific mooring ball assignment (#14) for today, but later we called back as promised & declined the assignment for today but would go on the waitlist for tomorrow.  We were on a falling tide till 1100’ish (visual observation only), although despite our efforts no one was able to confirm any info re tides & tomorrow was a better situation by leaving early + winds were to be more settled.  Sitting in the cockpit we could see out west the occasional sail or powerboat, but here were still sat all alone.  Graeme launched the dinghy as the water & wind were more gentle.  We saw a double masted sailboat coming towards Cambridge Cay from the SW, downed their sails & anchored off the more southern beach on Cambridge Cay.  Just as we got under way in the dinghy for some exploring, a sailboat sporting a Canadian flag was coming in & picked up a mooring ball beside us.  Later we discovered the boat was ‘Audacious’ (Catalina 42); we had met Jackie & Roger & their daughter 2 yrs. ago, friends of Judy & Mike (‘Sea Sharp’).  We dinghied north across the cut passed Bell Island (new construction), O’Briens Cay & Soldier Cay & their snorkeling sites, then back to Mailbox Cay & southern Cambridge Cay well above Conch Cut.  At sunset cloud cover from the N & E obscured the lowering sun, but an orangey sky did develop above the clouds after the setted sun.  I can’t adequately describe the billions of brilliant, magical constellations & stars tonight.

Mon. Dec. 24, 2012—Day 83: 
Destination:  Cambridge Cay to Warderick Wells, Exuma Park
Departure:  0720 hrs.                           Arrival:  1020 hrs.                                      Distance:  13.81 NM
Winds:  SE to E 8-13K                                                             Seas:  1 ft.
Warderick Wells
Weather:  warm, magnificent sun once the 
normal am cloud passed

First Bahamian Happy Hour!
Christmas Eve!!!  It just doesn’t feel like it.  We received the SSB 0630 hrs. transmission by C.P.’s replacement for today & tomorrow but like one subscriber said he was not clearly heard because he did not speak loud enough or was too far from his mike & sounded like he was in a tin can.  Instead we finished breakfast & on the move from our isolated, protected, solitude environment X 3 days.  Once we motored past

 the caution shoal & reef area & were west enough to avoid Bell Island Bore, we turned NW, rolled out the jenny & my Christmas gift arrived early—a school of 6-8 dolphins or porpoises played in our bow wake for the longest time, then 3 lingered for a while longer; I got several movies.  At 0900 hrs. Exuma Park gave us our mooring assignment #4, not as good or close to the office as yesterday #14 but we were protected from waves from all directions & the view was spectacular.  The Christmas tree was set up, bow & snowflakes were hung & battery operated Christmas lights were strung in the cockpit.  With the dinghy lowered we headed to the office to pay our fees; bought a $50.00 membership which gave us 2 free nights (used for Cambridge Cay stay) + 2 X $15.00 for Warderick Wells + $15.00 for new & improved Wifi X 24 hrs. or 100 MB.  Then the crusher—absolutely no cell phone service!  We signed up for the Christmas Dinner at 1300 hrs. tomorrow & I purchased a couple of Christmas gifts for Graeme.  Back at the boat I baked a pan of brownies as our contribution for the Christmas meal.  Then it was Happy Hour at the beach.  We met up with ‘Truansea’ & many more new cruisers whose boat names we heard frequently on the VHF.  This helped for the time being with my feelings of homesickness for my family & our traditional Christmas events.  The mosquitoes shooed us home after sunset.  Graeme played my Il Divo Christmas tape twice through during & after dinner.  Both of sat listening with tears streaming down my face & tears even welled up in Graeme’s eyes, especially when he said “at least you have family left”.  No phone connection to call Ottawa or the Morrows.  The pits!  Yet an amazing night in Warderick Wells with so many boats light up with Christmas lights, bright ¾ moon in the sky, the Bahamian breeze blowing & unique water slapping against the hull.  Merry Christmas & Peace on Earth!!!

Tues. Dec. 25, 2012—Day 84:  
Destination:  Warderick Wells
Winds:  ESE to SE 8-12K
Weather:  mostly sunny with a few clouds, warm (near 80F)

Merry Christmas!!!

Santa does come to the Exumas too!

Think snow!
We slept in till 0700-0730 hrs. as no one was transmitting weather today & we were staying put.  A little special menu for breakfast this morning-- fruit cocktail followed by banana pancakes & coffee; sorry, no champagne & orange juice.  We exchanged a few small Christmas gifts between the two of us.  I cooked a supper meal, if not for tonight, for Boxing Day + another evening meal.  Mid morning we went to shore, landing the dinghy on Powerful Beach & walked the Boo Boo Hill Trail, that took us to the highest elevation overlooking both Exuma Sound (Atlantic) & Exuma Banks.  The Atlantic was too calm today so the blow holes were not spraying sea.  It was on to Boo Boo Hill where we met a company of 6 off of ‘Audacious’; one in the group was successfully calling home to wish her mother Merry Christmas & Happy Birthday.  We returned to our boat, quickly showered & dressed for the Exuma Park Christmas Dinner at 1300 hrs.; Warden Henry & wife Teesha cooked the turkey & ham & us cruisers (50+) provided a great variety of scrumptious complimentary dishes.  Just before attending the dinner I ran back up Boo Boo Hill & called Mom then Larry.  My heavy heart was relieved; my Christmas was more complete.  I felt so much better now having talked to both of them & was able to enjoy the Christmas gathering so much more.  Once the crowd had thinned about 1600 hrs. I stood near the warden’s antenna & successfully called & talked to all my family in Ottawa gathered at my sister’s house.  Not feeling hungry I activated the internet I had purchased on my netbook (longer battery life).  Within one hour I apparently had used up my 100 MB or 24 hrs. at a price of $15.00; I had only opened approximately 6 emails & responded to a few.  I will check this out in the morning as I was assured that people run out of time before the MB.  The Christmas lights were on in the cockpit & the CD’s were playing in the cabin tonight.  After sunset the SE winds had increased & continued through the warm night.  A near full moon shone brightly in the partly clear & partly cloudy star filled night sky. 

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