Friday, April 24, 2015

Albert Town,Long Cay to Great Inagua

We left Salina Point, Acklins Island for Great Inagua last night at around 8 p.m. as the kids were getting ready for bed and I had just woken up from a nap. We had a great day working our way down from Albert Town which was a very remote settlement. We stopped there after leaving French Wells and anchored right off town because the swell was minimal and winds were light. The town only has maybe 50 people in it but it once had a couple thousand. There are a lot of ruins about and we stretched our legs seeing them. We found the old jail complex that was pretty cool and a church that was the largest church south of Nassau.

Shambala anchored off Albert Town

The old church

Staci giving a sermon
Jail Ruins

 As we were walking by the all ages school the teacher invited us in to meet both students and hang out for a little while. One student was a second grader and the other was in fourth. They read out loud to us, sang a couple songs, and recited a prayer. Samantha and Nicholas also read aloud for them and we showed them where we were from and the places we've sailed on their map.
The school house was surprisingly well equipped with plenty of books,microscopes, computers, etc.
They even let us go through their books and gave us a few. We signed their guest book which had a few other cruising boats in it. The teacher is doing a great job with them. They are getting a great education, essentially one on one learning. The second grader actually came from another island and lives with the teacher during the school year. It appears that Bahamians really value education.

Long Cay All Ages School

After a very still, hot night at anchor we started moving south toward Salina Point. We stopped at Fish Cay  around lunch time and dove on a few reefs. The first one had two nice, big lion fish on it that  we shot to eat for dinner along with a yellow jack we caught trolling. The reefs had a lot of nice fish but the coral is not very healthy. We moved a little further south and dove on another reef with some elkhorn coral. Nicholas spotted a turtle tucked down beneath a piece of coral chillaxing.

We then moved down to Salina Point to eat dinner and rest before the 80 mile trip to Great Inagua. The passage went well and we were actually able to just sail for quite a while in  the middle of the night. The winds died in the very early morning and we motorsailed to Matthew Town where we anchored next to the town basin. We cleared out of The Bahamas and tomorrow we need to  ferry some diesel in our jerry jugs to fill our tank so we have plenty for the trip to Puerto Rico.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

French Wells, Crooked Island

Kelly left us on Thursday afternoon and Friday we woke up to dead batteries. One of the cells went bad in one battery and it took down both of them. Even the one that wasn't damaged wouldn't take a charge. We were okay through the day with our solar panels but the wind had died so our wind generator was useless to keep the refrigerator going at night. There is an AID/Napa in George Town that fortunately had two 4D batteries in stock but unfortunately they were twice the price as the States.
Well, $852 later we were back in business keeping the beers cold. Ouch! Thankfully it didn't happen when Kelly was here. 

So, after dealing with that on Saturday morning the weather looked good for us to continue towards the Caribbean and we got the boat ready for sea, said goodbye to our friends in the harbor and raised anchor. We left Elizabeth Harbour around 6 p.m. heading for Crooked Island. The winds were forecast to be light into the evening out of the S.E. and then back to east through the night. That would have been great for our trip but instead they built out of the S.E. through the night. We raised the main at midnight as we were rounding Cape Santa Maria and motor sailed slightly off the wind at around 3.5-4 knots. Seas weren't to bad, around 4', but the going was slow. The wind slowly laid down and by morning we were moving at 5.5 kts. We trolled the whole way during daylight hours but caught nothing. Landrail point was our landfall just before sunset on Sunday. There was a small surge here causing the boat to roll at anchor but we managed to get some sleep.

Monday morning we got up early, listened to weather from Chris Parker, and made our way south 8 miles to try to get into the French Wells anchorage. The Explorer charts describe the entrance into the anchorage as intricate and shallow with shifting sand bars. We arrived about 50 minutes before high tide at the nearest tide station (Datum Bay) and slowly followed the course on the charts. Almost immediately we were aground on the sandbar so we backed off and anchored in deeper water. The Captain and Admiral jumped in the dinghy with the iPad and lead line to search out a clear path in. After a short time we found a good path north of the charted course and marked the waypoints on the iPad. if anyone wants these points feel free to email us but the entrance appears to shift quite often. Back on the big boat we raised anchor and followed our waypoints in with no problems. After congratulating ourselves we discussed how we never would have tried that 2 years ago, risking a grounding so far from any help in the middle of nowhere. We anchored as far in as depths would allow after trying in a couple of places with no luck getting the anchor to dig in. The bottom is hard scoured sand from the fast current that runs though here.

The day was spent exploring the area. At Gun Point, just north of us, there is a cannon lying on the ground and the ruins of an old fort. Just to the west of that is the wreck of S.V. Secret. It appears she dragged her mooring, which she is still tied to, and ended up in the mangroves far from deep water. 
After checking out the sailboat we decided to try to find the well French Wells was named for. On our way to the beach we saw a mangrove creek and went up it as far as we could. It rivaled the creek at Conception Island for wildlife. We saw three sharks that we think were Caribbean reef sharks, a few turtles,lots of fish and a juvenile flamingo.

We continued on to the beach where the well is and found the rock lined path that leads to it marked with cairns and a large rock arrow on the ground. The well looked a little stagnant. You'd have to be pretty desperate to drink from it.
On the beach some cruisers have piled rocks into a circular wall. Quite a few have carved their boat names onto the pieces of rock so naturally we had to add Shambala's.

On Tuesday we started the day with school, made water and then the Captain and Admiral cut each other's hair.  This was my (Paul's)first time cutting hair and I must say I did a stellar job after some internet research. We then dove at a couple reefs looking for dinner but came up empty. We saw some  giant grouper but they were wise to us and we couldn't get a shot at them so it was falafel for dinner.

Tomorrow we are going to continue south toward the southern tip of Ackilins, then onto Great Inagua Thursday night. Originally our plan was to head toward Ile a Vache, Haiti and then along the south coast of the Dominican Republic but this past week a couple on a cruising boat was violently attacked by six armed men while anchored off the north peninsula of Haiti. We would sail right past this area and  decided it wasn't worth the risk. So, instead we will sail east from Great Inagua with the help of very unusual south winds off the north coast of the D.R. Hopefully they materialize and all goes as planned.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Kelly's Visit to the Exumas

The boat was cleaned top to bottom, with as much fresh water as we could dinghy to the boat.  We cleared out of our back cabin and put out the new sheets and towels.  
They kids were counting the days, hours, then minutes until Kelly’s arrival.  

Yea!!!  She made it!

Kelly is my good friend from Colorado that I have known since before I married Paul.  

No big surprise after we shopped at the market the taxi driver yelled “goodbye my wife!” and Kelly yelled back “goodbye my husband!”  Kelly had already found a husband and had decided to move to the Bahamas.  Problem being she doesn’t know how to cook fish.  
Enjoying herself on Shambala
We did so much in the 10 days she was with us, I can hardly remember it all but here goes.

We stayed in George Town for the first two days and enjoyed yoga each morning,  Volleyball Beach with the Chat ’N’ Chill and sting rays, we went to the sound side beach, body surfed the waves, and snorkeled the reef near town.

Then we had a slightly rough sail up the coast to Rudder Cut where we anchored near Musha Cay.  We now know to never let our guest go down below, even for a little bit during a passage.  Bad choice.
We took the evening off alcohol and just fed Kelly crackers.  

Full recovery the next day.  We pulled Kelly around behind the dinghy to look at the coral reefs near David Copperfield’s Island and snorkeled around the very cool statue of the piano.  Next we snorkeled around a sunken plane but the water was rough so it was a brief look.  We were then invited over to a boat drink party aboard S/V Planet Waves (who we met in Marathon) with S/V Blue Highway.  We had such a good time it turned into dinner and we stayed until the kids couldn’t stay awake. 

From there we moved a few miles north and stayed two nights near Big Farmer’s Cay.  We named the place Sting Ray Beach because there was a cool salt water pond that had an outflow to the bay with small sting rays in it.  One night we had a bon fire on the beach and enjoyed making s’mores.  

Kelly brought us the game of Clue so we spent some down time on the boat to play “who dun it.”  The game has changed some since I was a kid.  I guess they are trying to make it more contemporary or modern.  I personally liked it the way it was so Kelly and I tried our best to describe what the older version was like. 

Oven Rock on Little Farmers was next where we hiked into a cave.  We made it a school day talking about stalagmites and stalactites and the differences.  There was water at the bottom the cave that is said to go more than 100 feet down.  It was cooler in the cave without the sun but very humid so we were all sweating.  I expected it to be full of mosquitos considering the stagnate water but then remembered the cave is also full of bats.  Good eating for those guys I bet. 

The search for conch brought us to Norman’s Pond Cay, south of Farmer’s Cay.  Kelly and I both were pulled by the dinghy for about 1/2 a mile with no luck.  We went through the entire pond and pulled Paul around with no luck.  The on our way out Kelly noticed a beautiful conch on the side.  She saved the day!  We put it in the refrigerator overnight and pulled it out the next day.  This time not all of the animal came out of the shell.  Pee-ooo!  It was stinky.  
Paul cut off the end of the shell in hopes to get the rest of the animal out and to make it into a conch horn for Kelly.  Still no luck.  We vacuum sealed it and sent it home with Kelly anyway where she is going to find some kind insects to get in there and help her out.  Then she will blow her conch horn every night at sunset.  Won’t that be pleasant for all of her neighbors?  She can drink her special Goombay Smash drinks (we gave her the secret Chat ’N Chill recipe).

We came back to George Town for Kelly’s flight out.  We shopped for souvenirs at the Straw Market and found a lot of beautiful hand-made items.  That night a terrible fire occurred and burned the entire place down.  We were all shocked to see the destruction.  It burned everything except the metal chairs the ladies sat on to weave.  It was a tragedy for the community.  They have already started fund raising to rebuild it.  We were their last customers the night before.   

Kelly left the next day and we were all sad to see her go.  She headed to back to snow in Colorado. 

Now for us, it is on to the Caribbean.  The wind is changing and we are thinking of leaving very soon. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Staniel Cay to the Jumentos Cays and Ragged Islands

The weather was settled, calm winds and little to no waves.  We decided now was our chance to make a big jump south.  We moved from Black Point back to Staniel Cay to get fuel.  In the morning we got up early to get to the fuel dock at 8:00 AM.  Someone beat us to it.  We waited for them to go have breakfast and come back and finally made it over for fuel about 9:00 AM which worked out well as the tide was just coming to slack.
After filling the diesel tank and getting dinghy gas we sailed and motor sailed to Coakley and Duck Cay.  It was a little scary coming in after dark but we anchored safely and had a night of some rolling and rocking.  The next morning we started out early and made it to Water Cay just after noon.  We spent two wonderful nights with almost no wind and no surge.  Paul speared us three awesom fish.  The first was a trigger fish, next a rock hind, and a final was a Nassau Grouper.  The last was HUGE.  We ate fish for the next two days.

The wind finally picked up and we were able make a big jump all the way to Hog Cay.  We had a very nice sail and only had to motor for the last hour of the trip.  To our surprise we were hailed on the radio by our friends Alibi II and Lost Marbles.  
The kids are happy to see friends, even through the friends are adults they still enjoy the attention. 

We took advantage of the nice weather and decided to go snorkeling.  As we were swimming around Paul noticed a Caribbean Reef shark.  Samantha immediately got out of the water, followed by me.  Nicholas wanted to stay and see the shark.  It swam with in 10 feet of Nicholas and Paul but seemed more curious than hungry.  Not sure if Nicholas is very brave, curious, or just plain crazy.  We love him just the same.
That same day we went to the beach for a potluck.  There were large hermit crabs running around and Nicholas couldn't help himself but pick one up.  Samantha, very motherly told him to not touch it, but again Nicholas being Mr. Curiosity couldn't help himself.  The crab pinched the end of his index finger so hard it took off part of his nail.  I think the pain was beyond his comprehension.  He didn't cry but couldn't catch his breath.  He went to sit by Paul then passed out.  It was a scary few seconds that seemed like minutes, then he woke back up.  With in the hour he was running and jumping around like nothing happened.  
The weather changed and a cold front moved in.  We are hanging out on the boat more now and spending time with our friends on their boats Alibi II and Lost Marbles.  We are anchored on the south side of Duncan Town, Ragged Island.  Maxine's Grocery store didn't have much on our first trip into town but had groceries flown in so we have made a couple of trips in.  I figure it to be over a mile walk to town so it is good exercise for us all.  We used the free wifi at the clinic across the street from her store.  
Yesterday we walked past her store to the school and passed the most interesting pigeon coop.  Birds of all kinds were living there.  Ones I've never seen before.  There was also a pet goat that followed us around and started to give the kids head butts when they stopped petting him.  We named him Gary the goat.  He was getting a little rough so walked away and he left us alone after that.
We are starting our return trip back to George Town today.  The trip back should be nice wind and weather so we can meet up with our friend coming next week.  We are so excited that my friend Kelly is coming to visit for over a week.  We plan on showing her the Exumas in style on Shambala!
Paul climbing a palm tree, with great effort, to grab a jelly coconut that turned out to
be dry inside.

The kids climbing a much easier tree on Hog Cay

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Exumas

We have been to a lot of islands since our last post.  After Allen's Cay we went to Norman's Cay.  There we did our favorite things, snorkel on the sunken plane, go to the beach, and have conch fritters with the conch we found for dinner.
The wind started out blowing hard up to 20 knots out of the east, then just dropped off.  It has been light and variable for days now which keeps it hot and humid.
The light wind does make it easier to dive on spots that are usually to rough to get to.
After Norman's we spent time at Shroud Cay.  This is the beginning of the Exuma Land and Sea Park.  This is a no kill zone so Paul had to put his pole spear away.
At first we didn't see much sea life but then we anchored outside of the park quarters near Emerald Rock.  There we found amazing fish, lobster, rays and amazing sea life.  This is the first place we snorkeled without current so the kids were able to swim on their own.
We traveled farther south and found more caves to dive in and reefs to snorkel around.  This kids are now enjoying it more than ever.  They can name every fish they see. Rocky Dundas Cave was very cool, we are visiting more places now than we have before.
Pipe creek was next with the cool sand bar that leaves a small pond in the middle the kids love to swim in.  They call it their pool.  While we were spending the day there the kids noticed a small octopus in the pool that swam out to the big water.  As it swam it changed colors and we all felt so excited to see it all happen.
We stopped in Staniel Cay to provision at the Blue Store, Pink Store, and the Isle General Store.  You wouldn't think we needed to stop at all three but they all have different produce and items at varying prices.
We are now in Black Point getting our internet fix and then from here...
Not sure yet.  No wind keeps us wondering what to do next.

Attempted self portrait of us all.

My two favorite snorkelers in the whole world.

Boo Boo Hill

The lizards like to pose.

Our sign is below Majestic and above Dutchess in blue with the antlers next to it. 

This is our addition this year to the drift wood pile on top of Boo Boo Hill.

At Exuma Land and Sea Park the remains of a Sperm Whale.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Top of the Exumas


We are at the top of the Exuma chain of islands.  

We left Rock Sound Thursday on our way to Ship Chanel Cay.  Before we left we provisioned at a well stocked grocery store just a short walk from a dinghy dock.  This was a relief for our tired feet.  The day before we walked a long distance to get to the ocean beach.  The walk started with a short distance to the blue hole in town then we talked the kids into walking to the ocean beach.  After over an hour of walking we made it.  The beach is famous for its pink sand.  We agree with our boating friends S/V Perry, if you look really hard and maybe squint a little, you might say it looks pink.  The kids entertained themselves on the way there but then had a lot to complain about on the way back.   

Note to self: when walking over  two hours wear sensible shoes, not flip flops.  

While under way near Powell point - Cape Eleuthera, we heard a mayday call from a boat named Delila about a kite boarder with a severe cut on his leg from a possible sting ray.   The rescue boat came out from the Island School to get them within about 20 min.  We were about 3-4 nautical miles away so couldn't do much more than listen.  He was rushed with his significant other (young girl about 22 years old) to the doctor in Rock Sound.  We were closely followed by a catamaran named Sea Sleigh, on there way to assist in securing the boat.  
We were close enough so we decided to detour and help secure the boat.  When we arrived it was quickly decided that the boat was not in a safe place and we needed to bring it into a secure anchorage.  
We radioed the Island School to see where we could bring their boat and when they responded they informed us that young man with the injury did not make it.  
I wasn't sure how to take this news.  Paul and I didn't know them but Sea Sleigh did and told us they were a lovely young couple.  
It is sad to see someone so young and active come to an untimely end.  
Paul drove Delila into Cape Eleuthera Marina while I led the way on Shambala and Sea Sleigh followed.  Paul secured the boat and went over to talk to Sea Sleigh.  We exchanged information and then took off to continue our journey to the Exumas.  We had mixed feelings about sticking around but decided we didn't know anything else we could do by staying there.  
It was a very sad day for us all.  

Back to some lighter news.  We found a sunken plane wreck off of Ship Channel Cay and an amazing coral reef between there and Allens Cay.  The whole family got to do some snorkeling and we saved the way points for future reference. We also shot a nice red hind that we had for dinner.

Ocean beach with pink sand.  

The kids entertained themselves on the long walk by picking  plants and flowers.  We actually passed a kind of garden with tomatoes, broccoli, corn, and peas of some sort.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Glass Window

The Glass Window is an interesting geological feature at Eleuthera's narrowest point.  It was a natural bridge until the ocean slowly eroded the weak point and broke it in two.  A man made bridge was used to keep the two parts of the island connected but was pushed sideways by a rogue wave in 1991.  After a while it was repaired and this is what it looks like now.
We had fun walking all around on the limestone and checking out the clear blue water. 

We decided to head slowly southeast along Eleuthera Island anchoring out in different spots.  

Halls Bight was an uncomfortable anchorage with a swell rolling in.  No beaches to visit here so the kids and I stayed aboard and Paul went spear fishing and shot four lion fish.  We feel we are doing our part to save the reef fish from getting eaten.  They are tasty fish but have very little meat on them.  

Hatchet Bay is a well protected anchorage from all directions.  The bay is man made from a salt pond for a cattle venture that never took off.  We all got off the boat to walk around Alice town.  It is a sleepy town without much going on.  It could be because we visited on a Sunday. 

Alabaster Bay is where we are now.  This is a beautiful beach and a wonderful place to relax.  With small sand bars and no current ripping through it has become one of our new favorite spots to play at the beach.  

We started homeschooling again, did laundry by hand, and made water along the way.  Paul is in the midst of repairing the water maker.  Tough when the nearest hardware store is miles away and we can only get there by boat.  He attempted a repair that resulted in a broken fitting.  So....

We sailed (no motoring yay!) to Rock Sound.  Along the way we caught a nice cero mackerel for dinner.  We hope to find the high pressure hose and fitting to get our water maker back up and running. 

The plan is to keep traveling along the coast then cross to the Exumas.