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.