Exumas!

When we last wrote, we had been having robust sails and windy weather. The pattern continued for a few more days while we anchored at Little Harbour in the Berry Islands.

One day, we ventured out to the island for lunch. Why did I put on clean clothes – the waves drenched us in Step Three’s dinghy, loaded with the four of us. But it was nice to get ashore and walk around a little. The cheeseburgers were good also.

Finally, the wind abated and we set sail for Nassau, 32 miles distant. Mur landed a skipjack tuna that weighed about 5 or 6 pounds. The anchorage in Nassau was virtually deserted with only 20 or 30 boats anchored. We managed to get all of our jobs done quickly, with fresh vegetables the top of my list. The tuna made a tasty supper for four that night with the crew of Step Three aboard to share it with us.

Early in the morning, we set off again. Towards the Exumas. The wind allowed us to sail all the way to Norman’s Cay, approx 50 miles. In the morning, we slipped out of the cut into the deep water of Exuma Sound. The fishing poles were put away, as we were within the limits of the Exuma Land and Sea Park, and fishing is prohibited.

Another front with strong winds from the west and northwest were expected, so we entered the cut at Cambridge Cay and anchored there. It is a very large space and only five other boats shared it with us. The balance of that day was gorgeous, so we grabbed our gear and had the first snorkel of the season. It was a very pretty reef with many fish. Protected ones, as we were still in the Park.

I organized a dinghy drift for cocktail hour. That entails tying dinghies together and drifting with the current while we share conversation and snacks. It was a lot of fun and we got to meet some new people.

The next day dawned with blue skies and sun. We took advantage of the weather for a exploration walk ashore. From the top of the island, we saw a wall of rain coming our way. And I had not obeyed the rule to close all hatches before leaving the boat! To prevent wet beds that night, we dashed back to the boats. The wind and rain hit shortly after and we were glad to be snug and dry. The wind blew hard for a couple of days so we worked on boat jobs.

When the winds abated we sailed ( with actual sails up and the engine off!! ) to Staniel Cay area and dropped the anchor at Big Major Spot. The mailboat arrived the next day with fresh veggies. It was a good excuse to go to town, meet people and have a hamburger in paradise.

Now, the snorkel gear is used daily and we have even been fishing out on the Sound. Not that we have gotten anything either way – but we try. I have baked bread twice already and helped another cruiser with computer/charting problems. The First Friday in February in Farmer’s Festival or 5F’s is happening soon and we plan to be there, if the weather co-operates. There is racing by the Bahamian C-class boats and fun contests for cruisers. A big party!

The next front is expected soon and we have to look for a place to hide again. Or do we wait it out here? How long will the wind blow hard from the west is the question? There is no protection for us at all from the west in this location. Time to collect more weather info and make a decision.

That is life aboard the vessel Windswept IV.

How are things faring with you all? Freezing and snow up to the wazoo? Stay well and warm and take care of each other.

Hugs, Murray & Heather

Back in the Bahamas

As most of you already know, we flew back to Ontario due to Murray’s mother critical illness. We arrived in Woodstock at 11:30 pm New Years Eve and managed to visit with Mom daily until we lost her on Jan 5th. Thank you all for the condolences that you have written to us as the support of friends and family is so important at times like this.

On Thursday the 13th, we headed to Buffalo airport to return to the boat. Our flight was delayed due to snow in Chicago. Luckily, we managed to make the next connection, a flight from Chicago to Miami. This one was delayed even more due to mechanical problems. We arrived in Miami just as the flight to Freeport was leaving. Both of us had caught colds and had trouble with the pressure changes as our ears wouldn’t adjust and we were left hard of hearing. Murray was feverish with sneezing and a runny nose, in fact he used most of a box of kleenex. The airline put us in a hotel overnight. After some aspirin and decongestants, a hot shower and a few of Barb’s cookies, we crashed with exhaustion. Murray’s fever broke through the night and he felt some better in the morning. As we were only on standby for the earlier flights, and booked on the 8 pm flight into Freeport, we got to the airport at 7:30 am. Luckily, there was space for us on the early flight and we arrived at the marina before 11 am.

Once there, we heard of a weather window to go south. Tomorrow. Yikes! We’re both sneezing and coughing and tired out. But, decided to make the effort. Unpack, do final laundry, get a few fresh supplies. Our dear cruising friends had bought some fresh veggies for our arrival – thanks again. Great – somebody is going to the store – maybe a cabbage and a few green peppers? All jobs accomplished, we sit down to a hardy dinner of – a bowl of soup. Still not feeling up to anything. Off to bed at 8 pm, for an early start in the morning.

Six am finds us on deck, doing last minute things. The lines are loosed and we pull out of the slip. Three boats in total leave with our group, with two more an hour or two behind.

The wind allows us to sail on a beam reach, for the first few hours. Then, it dies and comes back on the nose. The waves increase and we are taking a lot of spray. Murray goes below and announces that all of the hatches have been leaking and we have salt water everywhere! He tightened them as much as possible but we can do nothing more now. Our destination changes as the wind and waves hamper our progress. Finally, by 5 pm we drop the anchor in a fairly protected cove. But, a front is predicted to arrive – tonight or tomorrow and we cannot stay here as it is open to winds from the NE.

My stomach has been unhappy with the wave action today and it is my turn to spike a fever. Mur makes us a wonderful pot of soup from some of my canned meat. As our bed and bedding are wet with salt water, we sleep in the main cabin. Rain pounds the deck at interval all night. Our anchor drags in the daylight and we re-set it briefly.

With a lull in the wind and rain, we haul anchor and set off again. Only 20 miles to travel today. The rain storms hamper our visibility and the wind howls through the rigging. Murray is happy as he catches four fish.

By 1 pm we are safely anchored in the channel at Little Harbour Cay. The wind is howling at 35 knots. The boat rocks side-to-side 10 degrees and bobbles fore and aft as well. The anchor is holding well, which is good as we have rocks close by. If the anchor drags tonight, we will have BIG trouble. Local fisherman stop by with lobster to sell and we make a deal for 6. Our freezer works overtime to freeze fish and lobster.

Somehow, we manage to sleep a little. Still in the main cabin, with drying sheets and pillowcases everywhere. Morning brings – nothing new, still howling winds and rolling boats. With no desire to eat or move around, it is difficult to accomplish anything. Today we MUST move to someplace a little less rolly.

So, be glad that you are there today and not with us. Close your eyes a minute and imagine that your house is being tossed violently side to side and just as quickly, jerks front to back. The sun is shining here today, but I think that this time we envy you with solid ground under your feet.

Hugs, Heather & Murray

PS We just moved – no rolling here! Much better. Beach off of the bow. Now I remember why we love this so much.