February 2006

Travels and Travails

Hello everyone,

Well, we managed to escape the clutches of George Town! It was difficult, as there is always another party, beach thing or barbeque in the works. After one more such evening of fun, music, and food ( my piazza didn’t even make it as far as the table! ), we hauled anchor and sailed out on Feb 18th. It was a robust sail and we had no luck fishing. Except Mur did manage to catch the wind generator with the fishing line when the wind blew the line sideways into the blades. Man, did that stop fast. Friends were anchored near Rudder Cay, so we lined up to enter Rudder Cut, staying out of the out-going current until the last minute. We started the engine and turned downwind to enter the cut, when we discovered that there was no cooling water going to the engine. Yikes! Luckily, the rule is “all sails up, just in case “, so we sailed in, very slowly as we were fighting a strong ebb tide and sailing down wind. But, we made it and then proceeded to anchor under sail. Mur checked out the engine and found a loose cap on the strainer. Perhaps that is the problem.

The water at Rudder Cay was gin clear! There were no boats within a mile of our anchorage, so into the water we dove – starkers! What a glorious swim. The next day, after a leisurely breakfast, we dinghied around the neighbouring area and snorkeled over any interesting spots. A beautiful day with a green flash at sunset to finish it off.

The wind carried us on northward, up the Exuma chain on the inside ( the shallow water side ). We spent a night near White Point and another at Black Point settlement. There I sat with the ladies as they plaited the straw and I worked on my basket. Did I say that I was weaving a basket? Well, I am trying to anyhow. They gave me some pointers and some of their palm fronds as well. From Black Point, we sailed on to Staniel, anchoring under sail most nights and even hauling anchor under sail.

Another glorious day to spend before we must head on. Haircuts on the beach are done first thing. Then off to snorkel once more. Mur got a trigger fish and a conch and we spent the afternoon in crystal clear water watching brightly coloured fish. How tough is that?

The next day was the first time since Long Island that we had to motor. But, with a cold front approaching and a schedule to keep, we needed to head on northward to Norman’s Cay. It was a fast trip and we arrived in time to catch a few hours out over the reefs once again. The wind started to howl during the night and we sailed, very fast, on the Nassau in the morning. In fact we hit over 9 knots and averaged over 8 knots on the trip. Just as we prepared to drop the anchor, Mur noticed that the engine was not pumping water once again and then the over-heat alarm started to sound! Quickly we dropped the hook. Mur went to his part supplies and installed another water pump. That seemed to solve the problem.

Now, we are safely anchored in Nassau. A cold front is expected to come through here today, packing high winds. So, we will stay aboard for the next few days, getting the boat ship-shape for company. Then, when the winds abate slightly, we will do laundry, re-stock the larder and await our guests. Linda and Kuyler will be aboard for two weeks and we hope for good weather so that we can share with them some of our favourite spots here in the Exumas.

That is what is happening aboard. How are things with you? Write when you have time.

Hugs, Heather & Murray

Troubles in Paradise

This year has been a tough one for many people, with fronts and high winds happening all too often. We have been involved in or have listened to, several rescue situations here in the islands.

The first one was a freighter, 180 feet long, disabled and drifting helplessly in 15 to 20 foot seas and high winds. We assisted in radio communications to try to arrange food and water drops and/or rescue. Eventually a tug, from Dominican Republic, was sent to tow them to shore.

Then, we heard of two mega yachts ( over 120 feet ) who sunk near Nassau. One hit a breakwall on the way into Lyford Cay Marina. A cruising friend has been involved in the salvage of one of these vessels. Another 120 foot yacht, took on water and capsized near Long Island. All hands were rescued and the boat towed by a salvager.

A cruising sailboat, on the way to Nassau, was hit at night and damaged by a mail boat. They managed to limp into Nassau for repairs.

On Feb 13th, 2 cruising catamarans were lost off of Mayaguana. All the people, from both boats, managed to get ashore. Again, cruisers assisted with radio communications between the vessels and rescuers.

And, finally, just the other day , Murray was involved in an incident that shook us both. He and Doug, from High Stepper, headed out to snorkel some reefs. Bill, from Sea Crest, had also asked to come along. With Doug and Mur in one dinghy and Bill in another, they headed south in Elizabeth Harbour. Once anchored at a likely spot, they all jumped in the water. Murray was the first one to get out, followed shortly by Doug. Not seeing Bill, Mur asked if Doug had seen him. Yes, he had but not for a few minutes. The two of them stood up in the dinghy and scanned the area, without seeing his head or snorkel. They motored to the other dinghy and checked to make sure he wasn’t hanging on to the far side. Now it had been 15 mins or more. They flagged down a passing powerboat to put out a radio call for assistance in searching. Returning to the reef, they motored slowly, scanning the surrounding waters. Finally, Mur spotted a head about a half mile away. They raced over and pulled Bill aboard, with them. He was exhausted but did not understand why they were so upset with him! He had swum down wave and current to search a far rock. Whether he would have been able to make it back to his own dinghy is debatable.

These events certainly do give us pause to reflect on the dangers we all face out here. It is not an everyday “walk in the park”. But, with caution, weather planning, vessel maintenance and proper seamanship, we manage to avoid the disasters. We plan to continue to do that. As far as we know there has been no loss of life in any of these incidents, although tremendous loss of material goods. Goods and possessions can be replaced, people cannot.

Hugs, Heather & Murray

Long Island

Hello everyone,

The weather co-operated with us last week and we returned to Long Island on Mon, Feb 6th. We even managed to sail there with an average speed of 7.4 kts. Together with High Stepper, Doug & Connie, we anchored in Thompson Bay. Murray has managed to catch 3 fish on the way over and even landed one, so we cooked a fish dinner for all of us. That afternoon, I arranged a car rental to start at 2 pm the next day.

The best part of the whole experience was the interaction with the local people. They are very friendly and will even pick up cruisers hitch-hiking on their roads. Details of the trip follow.

In the morning, we explored the anchorage, the dinghy dock and walked around the neighbourhood somewhat. At 2 pm, we got our rental car and started the adventures. We would spend that afternoon heading north and, in the morning, would see what we could to the south. We passed through a few tiny towns and followed a sign to Elsie Knowles Straw Handicraft. Elsie was a trip – very knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic about the Bahamian straw weaving industry. Each area weaves a different pattern and Elsie gets it all and makes bags, hats etc. When I said that I was trying basket-making myself, she showed us her plait patterns, the “straw” and encouraged me to continue with the skill.

Elsie sent us down a dirt road, looking for a beautiful beach. That was an adventure in itself as the road deteriorated to a mere track, littered with rocks. Finally, we did find a beach but we have seem more beautiful ones. We had a nice walk but found few shells or beans.

Eventually, we reached the northern tip of Long Island at the Columbus Monument. One of Columbus ships wrecked here on a reef off of the point named for it – Cape Santa Maria. Long Island was Columbus’s third stop in the New World. The land around the monument is very rough and tourists would not be allowed to even walk near this area in Canada or US, due to danger of falling from the cliff or slipping down the steep path. But, we made it and got some good pictures too.

A cold beer was next on the list and quickly taken care of. Heading back to the dinghy dock, Mur spied the sign for Beer and Burgers. The car turned right in and we spent a pleasant time, conversing with a local lobster fisherman.

Early the next morning, we headed off southward. The first stop was the ruins of the Spanish Church, built in 1600’s and still in use in 1960’s. Clarence Town and the St Peter and Paul’s Catholic church was our next stop. The church was built by Father Jerome and is situated on the highest hill in the area. Mur climbed the one tower that was still usable and has some great photos. Also in Clarence Town, we saw the salt ponds and the canal dug by the slaves to fill those ponds. They used the sun’s heat to evaporate the water and then harvested the salt.

The road from yesterday soon paled in our minds as we traveled down a track to Dean’s Blue Hole. It is one of the deepest blue holes in the world and is 633 feet deep. An Australian is training there to beat the world record for free diving and dives daily, with no fins or weight belts to assist him. He dove to 240 ft while cruisers stood and watched. The record now is at 256 ft.

The museum was next on the list and, although small, was very informative and interesting. There we saw the remnants of a dugout log canoe built by the early inhabitants of these islands, the Arawak Indians.

Time was running short, but we stopped by Roland McHardy’s Produce & Sponges. He is a 77 yr old widower, who farms in the rocky soil and grows fruits and vegetables galore. We chatted, marveled and carried two buckets full of stuff to the trunk. Sixteen dollars was all he would charge, but only after he showed us photos of his daughters and grandson. Now we just have to figure out how to cook/eat some of the unusual stuff like plantain and papaya.

The car was returned by 2 pm and we headed to the boat, exhausted from our adventures. Thompson Bay Inn was the place for dinner that night, with many cruisers in attendance.

Thursday, we sailed the whole way back to George Town, right into the anchorage. A radio call informed us that a concert was planned for that evening. We dinghied over, tied onto a major dinghy raft and listened in awe to opera. Stephanie, from Rhapsody and Divia from Maggie M. provided the beautiful arias. Stephanie, the whole 110 lbs of her, was a trained professional opera singer and can really project her clear, beautiful sound over the water. The almost full moon rose behind them. Wow, what a night.

But, we must pay for these good days and another cold front was expected. Hiding once more in Crab Cay, we are somewhat protected from the wind. The front hit yesterday afternoon with rain and high winds. Our anchor held and so did the ones around us. Now, the wind will continue to blow for a few more days and then we will head further north.

This is getting too long, so I will write another one soon. Hugs to all,

Heather & Murray


When last we wrote, we were on the way to George Town, Great Exuma. We arrived there on Jan 25th, anchored in town, dumped the garbage, hit the grocery store ( lots of fresh veggies,even avocados! ) and then went to anchor at Sand Dollar Beach.

George Town or Elizabeth Harbour is about 5 miles long, and about two miles wide with most of the anchoring up against Stocking Island, opposite town. There are 4 main areas where boats congregate: Hamburger Beach – named because of the burger stand; Monument Beach – with the stone monument high above; Volleyball Beach – close to the many volleyball courts; Sand Dollar Beach – furthest south and with sand dollars buried in the sand. There also are a few other popular areas that can only be used by shallow draft vessels. But those 4 are the main choices. The trip to town from any of them can be a very wet one if the wind is blowing very much. The new dinghy helps, but we do still get slightly wet at times.

So, here we weathered another cold front. Most days we were able to get ashore to walk over the hill to the beach. I even managed to take in a lesson on basket weaving. But mostly we sat aboard and read or played sudoku on the computer.

Finally the wind died. We dashed to town again, did laundry and shopped once more. After a lovely dinner with friends on Lolligag ( Matt & Madeline from Toronto ), we hauled anchor on Tuesday Jan 31st, headed for Thompson Bay, Long Island.

We sailed and motorsailed the distance, some 35 miles and anchored in a lovely bay. In the misty morning light, we hauled anchor again and motored in flat calm to Water Cay, Jumentos about another 40 miles.

The water was so flat that we could see starfish on the bottom and soft corals flowing in the current. A very large ( 8 Ft ) shark was seen on the surface during our journey. It was a beautiful day. The islands here are very low and covered with scrub bushes and a few stubby palms. In the morning, we walked on many of the beaches searching for hamburger beans and shells. Not many shells were found but we did get 5 lucky beans. We went snorkeling and while motoring in the dinghy, caught a 12 lb yellow jack on a hand line. Then, Mur shot a large trigger fish. Enough for one day!

All day, we had been discussing the next cold front that was expected. Earlier, it had been predicted to peter out. But now, it was coming on and stronger than previous reports. There was no place to hide close by.

So, reluctantly, we hauled anchor on Friday, Feb 3rd, and sailed back to George Town some 60 miles away. But, it was a glorious sail with speeds of over 8 knots showing most times on the knotmeter.

Now, we are tucked in, awaiting the front expected overnight. They always come at night, it seems. The wind will howl for a few days and then perhaps we can return to Long Island and visit some of its beautiful anchorages.

That is what is happening aboard. How are things up north with you? Write when you can.

Hugs, Murray & Heather

PS We will give more details of Water Cay at a later date.

Scroll to Top