March 12, 2016
We hike over to the Leon Levy National Nature Preserve on Eluethera. It is a hard two mile hike up and over to the other side of the island. The vegetation on the windward side of the island is significantly larger than the windward side. The trees and bush tower above us. There is an abundance of topsoil and the casuarina trees are three times larger than the other side of the island. It is quite unusual. This area is where the well to do whites live. The homes are large and well kept.
We arrive at the nature preserve which is one of the 34 national parks in the Bahamas. The park was opened in 2012. It is a 25 acre preserve with over two miles of hiking trails. The preserve is set up to show the visitors native and non-native species that benefit the Bahamas. There are no casuarina trees in the preserve. These trees were introduced to the islands in the 1930s as windbreaks which are a very invasive and destructive species for the islands.
We walk the trails of the park and wonder where we will get the energy to hike back to the boat. The walk through the park is quite instructive and the park is currently in great shape. Each section of the park has a theme: mangroves, epiphytes, edibles…. The tour was well worth the effort.
We leave the park and begin our walk back to the boat. We begin hitchhiking and are picked up by the third car that passes by. Karen sits up front and I sit in the back of the truck. The breeze as we travel down the road is a welcomed relief to the heat.
We get dropped off in front of the harbor and walk back up the hill to the Buccaneer's Club for lunch. We sat out on the deck in front of the club and had our lunch in the shade of the trees. There was a rooster walking about the deck picking up the crumbs that fell from the table under the sign that says do not feed the chickens.
After lunch we walked back down the hill and around to our dinghy on the far side of the harbor. The only problem is that we anchored our dinghy in one feet of water at low tide and now that the tide has come in our dinghy is in three to four feet of water. I wade out and bring the dinghy in so Karen does not have to get completely soaked like I am. When we get back I rinse off my clothes with fresh water and then take them off and put on some dry clothes.
We hang out in the cockpit all afternoon watching the activities that are going on around town. Later Civil Twilight (a 42' sailboat) comes in hailing us on the radio looking for some guidance on where to drop their hook. We guide them in and have them drop their anchor just off the front of our boat. It is twilight so they don't have a lot of time to figure out where to drop their hook. They get a good set and we all chill for the rest of the evening.
We pull up our anchor and head north for Gregory Town. Karen is looking for some batik fabric and the guidebooks tell us they have that fabric in Gregory Town. We have a short sail north only having to go twenty miles north to reach our destination. The scenery becomes a lot more interesting as we travel north. We no longer see iron shore and beaches but high cliffs ranging from 20 to 60 feet high all along the island waterfront. The cliffs also expose ancient caves with remnants of stalagmites and stalactites still visible within the caves. There is one piece of shore line where the caves overhead have disappeared and the stalagmites are free standing along the shore. Within a short while we arrive at Pittman Cove.
Pittman Cove is about 400 feet wide and opens into the Exuma sound. It is south facing with Gregory Town rising above it to the north to height of about 100 feet. The cove has 60 foot cliffs to either side of it. We try dropping the anchor but it does not stick. We just drag it around on the coral bottom for a while and then pick it up. We then decide to tie to the mooring ball in the middle of the cove.
We are not comfortable on the mooring ball. There is 75 feet of chain on the mooring ball in 12 feet of water and our boat is about 42 feet long with the dinghy on the back. That puts us dangerously close to the shallow waters and the rock cliffs in the bay. Half the chain is caught on a rock on the bottom. This limits our swing by quite a bit, so as long as the chain is caught we are in good shape. However, it is high tide and we are in eight feet of water. Low tide is at 20:00 and there should be three feet less of water. That would put us on the rocks.
We stay on the boat all day to see where we end up and what we will have to do to stay here. The skies are clear and there is a light breeze out of the east. The breeze pushes east? It must have to do with the cliffs all around us. The town is quiet for most of the day (it is Sunday) but picks up in the afternoon. The local fishermen start bringing their boats and trailers down to the Cove. They launch their boats into the water and anchor near us in the small harbor. Soon there are at least five boats being worked on. Most are being prepared for fishing tomorrow. The winds have eased up and the waters are clearing. Tomorrow promises to be a good day for fishing.
As the evening sets in, the winds push us out of the shallow water towards the Exuma Sound. If we hang here all night we will have no issues with the depth of the water. We are seeing twelve feet of water at low tide where we are now sitting. It is time to get some rest.
March 14, 2016
We have a lazy morning. It is daylight savings time and we have pushed the clocks forward one hour. At 9:00 we go into town to find the shop that sells the fabric that Karen is looking for. The shop was not hard to find. We walked by three buildings and the shop she needed was the fourth on the left. She was happy to find what she needed and bought nine yards of fabric. She also found a wicking t-shirt that I was looking for. It was a nice shop.
We walked up the hill through town looking for a grocery store. We found one but it was being worked on and had very little to offer. We were back at the boat by 10:30 and decided to pull anchor and head back south.
There is only about six knots of wind coming out of the south but if we motor and put up our sails the apparent wind is close enough that we can do six to seven knots with just a little push from the engine. There is not a cloud in the sky and the waters remain extremely flat. We can see the fisherman all along our trip working hard. Fishing has been horrible for a long time due to the high winds and successive cold fronts. Hopefully the fishermen will have a good catch today to make up for all their waiting.
We decide to push for Rock Sound which is about 43 miles south. We start getting close to our destination which is around the point in from of us. We cannot see Rock Sound but my AIS is showing us that Bristol Cream is in the harbor. We hail them and they invite us over for happy hour at 16:30. We are a bit too far to make it by 16:30 but press on anyhow.
We round the point and can see about eight boats in the harbor. We make our last turn and roll in the sails. We are steaming directly for Bristol Cream. We enter the harbor at full speed, drop the throttle back, point into the wind and drop the anchor. We have lots of room and let our 75 feet of chain. Karen backs down on the anchor and gets it set. I put on the bridle and then we both collect our stuff for the happy hour.
Karen makes our drinks and I drop the dinghy. We arrive at Bristol Cream at 16:40 just behind the rest of the guests. Bristol Cream is a center cockpit boat which tends to make the cockpit small. We are all packed into the cockpit pretty tight. George has to stand in the companionway because there is no place else for him to be. It is tight but cozy. Everyone can hear and share in the conversation. Blue Heaven (Arlene and Al,) Agave (Nina and Jimmy,) and Andante (Andy) are all there to share in the festivities.
We sit around and tell war stories. Karen tells about our encounter with Mojo. Everyone has a story about the guy on Mojo. The consensus is he is a real jerk. As the sun goes down it is time for us to leave and return to our own boat. It was good to meet up with Bristol Cream again. They are a nice couple and we get along well.
March 15, 2016
Woke up at 4:30 and could not sleep. I worked on the blog until the computer battery ran out. We pulled up the anchor at first light and headed out of Rock Sound. As we left we heard that the rest of the boats on the radio, so we hailed them and said our good byes. The water was so flat and clear you could see the bottom. The wave from the boat amplified the view of the bottom. The view was so clear you felt like it was really shallow water, like one foot deep. It is kind of eerie but an awesome view.
We round the point and the wind picks up. Our view of the bottom becomes obscured. We head for the Exuma Sound and plan to cross over to Blackpoint Settlement. When we enter the sound and head for Blackpoint the wind is on our nose and we are doing less than five knots. This will make for a long day. We decide to fall off and head back to Cat Island. We pick up speed and are now doing about seven knots.
I put out the fishing lines in the hope again of catching a fish. It is not long before we hear one of the reels singing away. We have just hooked a Mahi-Mahi. I drop the throttle and grab the fishing pole with the fish on. Karen pulls in the other line. The Mahi-Mahi is dancing across the surface of the water trying to get the hooks from lure out of his mouth. He finally chews through the line and all I pull in is my lure without the hooks. I need to get some steel leaders for my lures. The monofilament leaders are not holding up to the task at hand.
I put on a new lure and put the lines out again. We head for Cat Island again. It is not long after that the reel is singing again. This time we pull in a skipjack tuna. I quickly fillet the tuna and Karen fries up part of the tuna for lunch. There is nothing finer than eating fresh caught fish. The tuna has a strong flavor but we ate our fill.
We are making great time so we set our sights on New Bight and arrive at 18:00 covering 73 nautical miles in one day. We grab our shower bags and a new set of clothes and head ashore. We shower at their public baths and then head over to Hidden Treasures for dinner. Karen orders her Mango daiquiri and I order a Guinness.
The supply boat had just got in so her food supplies would not be in for another hour. We would have to wait for dinner. We hang out with Denise and help her label some vegetables she is shipping to Nassau for sale. The food comes in and she starts in on our dinner. She brings out our lobster tail and shows us how fresh the lobster is. She pokes the tail and the muscles move. She puts it on the grill and the tails start to move. That is fresh lobster.
The food and company are great. We leave a little tipsy and realize that we did not leave any lights on in the boat. The night is pitch black and we cannot see our boat at all. We are anchored about a quarter mile off the beach. We head in the general direction of our boat and just hope to run into it. As we close in on the boat our solar lights appear and we find the boat with little trouble, just a bit of a scare.