January 28-31, 2010... Exuma Islands Bound

Wednesday night was so rolly in the anchorage that we decided Thursday morning we couldn't take another night of it. So instead of spending a couple of more days in Little San Salvador as planned, we headed out back across the Exuma Sound for any ocean cut we could reach and an anchorage where we could sleep comfortably. Off we go in less than ideal wind/wave conditions and tired from no sleep; breaking all the rules of cruising. But, we made the 30+ miles across, timing our entry into Dotham Cut north of Great Guana Cay with the tide so that we wouldn't have to fight to get in. The tide gave us at least a 4-knot assist as we cruised quickly into the miracle waters of the Exuma Islands. Around the corner from the cut, we met swimming pool-like waters with barely a ripple. What a change from the roller coaster across the Sound and the anchorage of the night before. Worry evaporated and we cruised easily into the anchorage at Black Point settlement. So many boats!! More than we've seen in one place in the Bahamas since arriving -- lost count at about 25.
Friday morning (after the best night's sleep in a while) we dinghied to the town dock and started our exploration, meeting Lorraine who operates one of the restaurants in town; her mom, from whom we bought some of the best homemade bread; and Ida, who runs the laundromat, marine supplies, hardware, and gift shop. Of course we met some of the cruisers we'd heard on the Cruiseheimers SSB net, and surprisingly, a couple we met last October in Weems Creek, Annapolis. Everybody in town seemed to know we were here -- the only green boat in the anchorage. Happy with the situation, we decided we'll stay a while. A tour of the cove by kayak in the afternoon, a big barbeque dinner at Lorraine's that night and back to Anhinga.
Saturday we set off on foot to hike the paths inland. We wore ourselves out on dusty paths, scaling rocks on the ocean side of the island, and finding the inland creek near the cut. Maybe 6 or 7 miles later we straggled into town and checked email at Lorraine's. Exhausted we went back to the boat, missing the bocce ball game planned on the beach by some cruisers. We met the Annapolitan folks for sundowners and then after a quick dinner headed into town to dance at Scorpio's bar.
Sunday we expected the NEXT cold front. This never-ending series of fronts is getting tiring. But this one seems to have missed us as we ever so slowly inch our way to the Tropic of Cancer. We figured we'd go to the beach as everything in town was closed, and kayaked around the point headed south. From the chart, it looked like an easy couple of miles. Hah! Into the wind again with raging water. We almost turned back three times, but persevered and found a beautiful sand beach with clear water. Ahhhhh!!! The only ones on the beach, we swam, snorkeled, watched the sailboats crossing in the distance, and counted ourselves lucky. The Exumas are great!

Back Point, Great Guana Cay, Exuma Islands: +24° 5' 50.58", -76° 24' 17.28"

January 26-27, 2010... Journey to Little San Salvador

Another cold front came through with a vengeance on Tuesday morning at 4:15 am. It woke us up; once we determined we were firmly anchored and the hatches were closed against the rain that would fall, we went back to sleep. Then up again and underway by 7 am for the 40+ miles to Little San Salvador. The wind was strong enough for sailing and we had no trouble sailing down the 'whale tail' of Eleuthera. But when we needed to turn up to the east for the ocean segment across, the weather helm was tough and the seas were 5-8 feet. John eased the main and Patti insisted on a reef in the sail and we sped along to our destination. John manned the wheel for the crossing and was rewarded with double rations (of cookies) for his efforts. Anchoring was easy in sand, but we rolled in the swell for the night. And the north wind was cold.
Wednesday was exploration day. Splashing the kayak, we set off to learn about this place. First stop was the cruise ship area. We talked with the staff and learned that three ships would be in this week - one each on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. We are anxious to see how things change when the ship passengers descend. This island is blissfully peaceful without anyone else here. And we can't get over the gorgeous scenery -- green hills and blue water. Well, we set off for the southern coast of the island, hand-drawn map at the ready, to find the inlet to the large inland pond. Of course this would take us up into the wind (E-NE) so we were immediately challenged. Then we couldn't find the inlet. About to give up, John spotted the entrance. Through the toughest waves and swells yet, we headed in. We found ourselves sitting in one place paddling furiously; then moving back. The current and wind were opposed and we were losing! We got out of kayak and Patti towed it toward the pond. This current had to be 3-4 knots against us. We finally beached on the mangrove shore and tried to figure out if we could paddle on. We tried, but the current had us beat. So, we let it take us back towards the sea and we beached again to eat our power bar lunches and try to gain enough energy for the transit back. Nice thing about the trip back - most of it would be downwind. Back to Anhinga for rest and reading.

Half Moon Bay, Little San Salvador: +24° 35' 1.86", -75° 57' 40.62"

January 24-25, 2010... More Rock Sound

Sunday we set off for the beach on the ocean side of the island. We saw on the chart that it would be a hike, but didn't expect it to be almost 2 miles. That was really ok; it was just a little hard to find our way down to the shore from the road. When we did (with the help of a little girl who showed us how) it was high tide and the beach was only about 15 feet wide in front of the cliff. We made the best of it - we were certainly happy to lie down on the sand and hear the ocean - however the surf was huge due to the high winds and we didn't dare go into the water, let alone snorkel. When the water started lapping at our feet and we had no further up the beach to go, we started home again.
Monday, our last day in Rock Sound, we decided to re-provision at the big store. The winds were a little crazy and really churned up the water, so we decided to wait till the afternoon when reportedly they would calm down. We kayaked to the Four Points restaurant/bar that we went to on Saturday to tie up. It was so close to the store, we figured that should work out pretty well. After shopping, we stopped for a drink and our last lingering look over Rock Sound. Then into the kayak and into the wind and waves with our goodies. So, the weather forecast was wrong again - we were really up against it and got completely soaked on the way back pounding into the water. But get back we did, and we didn't even break the eggs! Tomorrow we sail for Little San Salvador.

January 22-23, 2010... Sailing in to Rock Sound

Friday morning we started out early to Rock Sound. The primary direction to get there was southwest. Guess which direction the wind was coming from... yup... southwest. We wanted to sail, had plenty of time to get there, so we decided to head close-hauled west and then tack for the south run down the coast. By afternoon, the wind was forecast to be more westerly, so we figured this plan should work. Not only did it work, but it was great fun! We had a real heel going that wasn't too uncomfortable and we were able to sail right up to the entrance to the Sound. Then we motored up the west side of the sound to anchor and get out of the substantial swell. But that's not all! As soon as the anchor was down, we put the kayak in the water and paddled the 2+ miles to the town across the sound. Going to town was easy and with the wind. We beached the kayak and did our walking tour through town to get the lay of the land. Then, it was time to paddle back. Not so easy. The wind was up in our faces and we were crashing down on each swell. Needless to say, we had a full body workout and got drenched. But we made it!!! Dinner certainly tasted good. Extra ration of grog for the crew!
Saturday we were up early (our body clocks are in tune with the sun... the earlier the sunrise, the earlier we are getting up). We had no big plans, but wanted to move the boat to the east side of the Sound as the winds were clocking around to the east and it would be more comfortable there later. Waited for the tide to come up then motored over anchoring in front of the beach. Kayak to the beach again. Off to the Ocean Hole -- another one of the blue holes dotting the Bahamas. Then another tour through town. This time we found the big supermarket on the outskirts of town. Fruit!! And a newspaper!! Another stop at the liquor store for Kalik. Then we stopped at a restaurant/bar on the beach to rest up and stare at the beautiful turquoise water. Met another cruising couple and shared boat stories. Back to the boat by kayak with our provisions and to read the paper from beginning to end.
Rock Sound west: +24° 51' 17.88", -76° 11' 4.44"
Rock Sound east: +24° 51' 32.04", -76° 9' 48.12"

January 21, 2010... Our First Anniversary

After running a few last-minute errands this morning, we raised the anchor and took off for parts south. Governor's Harbour was a wonderful stop and we'd be happy to get back there one day. But today we had some wind and we sailed south; with only one tack we made it to our destination at Ten Bay. Pretty cool. Wind was up and there was a swell, but we lowered the kayak and made off to explore. The beach here is plugged as one of the best in Eleuthera, but doesn't hold a candle to French Leave, the beach on the ocean we went to yesterday. We kept on along the shore south where the coastline is extremely rugged and beautiful. We found a small inlet where there was a tidal mangrove creek -- again the clearest water ever. Back to Anhinga. The most excellent champagne is chilling for our first anniversary dinner (thanks Karen and Ronnie!); wouldn't want to be late!
Ten Bay: +25° 7' 7.56", -76° 9' 17.88"

January 18-20, 2010... Governors Harbor

North winds pushed us down the coast of Eleuthera to Governors Harbor. We took a tour through the harbor proper to get a feel for the town, then zipped around the corner to anchor east of Laughing Bird Cay. Big basin, no one else there. Kayaking to the causeway that connects Governors Harbor and Cupid's Cay, we beached the boat and started our exploration in town. We found the bakery, the ATM, the supermarkets, the gas station and the library -- all of which would be stops over the next couple of days. Eager to try Bahamian food, we ate in town on Monday night and ordered way too much conch in every formulation as well as grouper fingers. We have now banned fried food from our diets until we re-establish equilibrium!
We were able to re-provision on Tuesday as that's the day the supply boats come to town. Fresh produce! Yogurt! Hard to believe how happy that makes us. After finishing our errands, we kayaked around the small cays off the anchorage. The water was so clear we could see straight to the bottom. Up around the cays there were starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, small corals, sea fans, and millions of tiny fish. Dinner was grilled fish on the barbeque (that equilibrium thing...)
Wednesday was another great day. Morning chores -- laundry, filling the dinghy gas tank, watermaking, bill paying by internet at the library. In the afternoon we walked to the ocean side of the island to go to the beach. Long, hot walk but we were rewarded with a gorgeous pink sand beach, even clearer water, and some good snorkeling over the coral bommies. Back at the boat, we are tired. And looking forward to another quiet night interrupted only by the roosters crowing and the dogs barking.
Governors Harbor: +25° 11' 19.44", -76° 14' 29.88"

January 16-17, 2010... Alabaster Bay

Saturday morning we made our beach landing at 6:00am sharp so that we could walk with Jay to the airport. Needed our flashlight to make sure we didn't get run off the road in the dark. Made it in time, only to find out the flight was delayed. Jay finally took off at about 8:40am and we walked back down the road for the return to Anhinga. We felt suddenly at loose ends -- without Jay and our itinerary we realized we were once again on our own and had NO SCHEDULE!! It took only a day to get back into cruiser mode -- something we hadn't had the luxury of since September when we lingered in Block Island.

Leaving Eleuthra from Jay Swift on Vimeo.

On Sunday we got up and kayaked south out of Alabaster Bay around the point to Billings Bay and then walked across the point to look at Holms Bay. The SW winds were blowing so the outbound crossing had been a little rough, but we were rewarded with a big push on the way back to the boat. We started some maintenance and other chores after lunch, including cleaning the boot stripe. Looks like that will take some good elbow grease; we'll have to attack that again sometime. But the deck was beckoning. The sun was out and the weather was warm, so reading and sunbathing was Patti's after chores choice. John read, but in the shade. Sunday night was a real treat. Cocodimama had a band playing, so we had drinks on the balcony and then shared a light dinner with Ilona and Vytus, who we had met a couple of days before at Glass Window. They were terrific company, the music was great, and we got to dance a little, and still made it back even though we had forgotten to leave on the anchor light and couldn't see the boat! (a real stupid people trick...) We decided to leave the next day as the winds were shifting and we no longer were in the lee in Alabaster Bay.

January 15, 2010... So This is Eleuthera!

Today was Jay's last day as one of the crew of the Anhinga. So, we sketched out the day so that we could get in every last thing he wanted to do. First of all, no dilly dallying in the anchorage. We got going (on the motor, as we would have had to tack upwind all the way, and Jay had no patience for that) towards Alabaster Bay, our destination for the night. Along the way we stopped into Hatchet Bay Pond to have a look around in case we need shelter from the next front coming through. We were surprised at how few boats were there -- plenty of room if necessary. Onwards south and we saw our first Bahamian dolphin! We had wondered where all the sea life was.

Eleuthra Dolphin from Jay Swift on Vimeo.

Finally, into Alabaster Bay. We chose this place because it is right next to Governor's Harbor airport where Jay needs to fly out of in the morning.
Once anchored, we dinghyed over to Cocodimama's to ask if it is ok to bring the dinghy up there, get a table for dinner tonight, and find out about walking to airport. We found the road, walked to GHB, and asked the Bahamas Air representative about tomorrow morning's flight. The time had already changed once since making the reservation in early December, and we didn't want Jay to miss the flight because we have been out of internet and cell phone range. She told Jay to be there at 6:45am because even though the flight is scheduled for 8:10am, it may leave early!!! OK, so that means a 5:30am wake up and hitting the beach at 6:00am.
Back from the airport, we stopped at Cocodimama's for a drink on the balcony. It overlooked the Bay and our boat! What a beautiful view. The sun came out and we felt like we were finally in the Bahamas, as we were meant to experience them. The last thing on Jay's agenda for the day was to climb the mast and take some pictures. Up he went in the bosuns chair and we have the pictures. Too bad we didn't think fast enough and get some photos of him up the mast. We ended our evening over our first dinner ashore since having Jay aboard. Cocodimama's was just fabulous. We are already talking about going back sometime.
Alabaster Bay: +25° 15' 50.34", -76° 19' 15.96"

January 13-14, 2010... North Eleuthera

Wednesday morning dinghyed to Current Settlement. We were welcomed everywhere we went by the nicest people. Picked up a few things at the grocery store, walked through town, took Kelly up on his offer to make us a conch salad (yum!), checked email at the library (thanks Sue) and headed back to Anhinga feeling really good about our stop at Current. It was still too cold to swim and snorkel, so we took the kayak out (Patti and John) and the dinghy (Jay) and headed down to the Current Island Cove. Huge tidal flat left some starfish high and dry. We put them back in the water but not sure we made it fast enough to keep them alive. Then we had our first barbeque of 2010 adding Kelly's very very hot sauce as a seasoning on the chicken. Delicious. Very calm night -- movie and bed.
Thursday we motored to Glass Window to see the bridge over the narrowest part of Eleuthera. Quite a sight. Then we sailed down the coast to just north of Gregory Town and anchored in a beautiful cove called Annie's Bight. As soon as we were set, we dressed for town to try to have dinner on shore. Unfortunately, the restaurant we headed to wasn't cooking tonight. We stayed to chat with the owner, Eddie, and another regular, Matty. Night fell, we decided to get back to the boat, and make some dinner. A little bit rolly, but we think it will calm down.
Glass Window: +25° 25' 45.30", -76° 36' 14.58"
Annie's Bight: +25° 23' 29.52", -76° 33' 43.98"

January 12, 2010... The Far Bahamas

Woke up this morning to great news -- the next cold front was only going to clip the northernmost part of the area and we would escape the strong winds! Off we went for the 55-mile trip to Eleuthera. We had weak winds, so motorsailing was the order of the day. We decided to anchor off Current Island and reprovision at Current Settlement. So we went through Current Cut from the north where we had a 4-knot assist through the waterway. As we were going through there were cool vortexes/eddies adding to the chop. Our anchorage tonight has the calmest water we've had since getting back on the boat in Delray Beach. We are looking forward to a beautiful sunset and a quiet night before exploring town tomorrow.
Current Island, Eleuthera: +25° 23' 12.24", -76° 47' 34.02"

January 10-11, 2010... Berry Islands Explorations

We survived the cold front -- the Rocna held. We had tides and 20-30 knot winds to contend with, but we shouldn't have doubted our anchor. Yesterday we dinghyed to Devils Cay and Big Gaulding Cay. Climbed the rocks, looked at the life clinging to the craggy limestone, and enjoyed being off the boat. It still wasn't warm, and we were dressed in full battle gear, but at least it wasn't raining. On Big Gaulding Cay, some enterprising souls had built a fire pit, cobbled together some benches and a table, and hung a hammock made of a nylon fishing net in the mangroves. Looked like they had grilled some conch, leaving behind the beautiful shells to decorate the palm tree. A terrific place to spend some time.
Today the winds were finally starting to abate and we dinghyed over to Hoffman's Cay. We walked the eastern beach looking for a path into the center of the island in search of the Blue Hole and the ruins. No luck. So we dinghyed around to the west side and found another sand beach. Stopped there and hiked through the vegetation where we saw the ruins (stone walls). We turned back because we weren't getting anywhere. Walking up the beach to the north we found a real honest-to-goodness path and -- eureka -- we found the Blue Hole. It is almost perfectly round and looked to be quite deep. A couple of surprisingly big fish came to see us and we fed them clementines. One was a yellowtail snapper; the other we think was a grey (or mangrove) snapper. An osprey flew over and hovered, then moved on, guess he didn't see anything in the Hole he wanted to eat. John and Patti were ready to head back to the boat, but Jay saw the path going the other way and convinced the team to explore. So off we went and found an absolutely gorgeous wind-free pink sand beach; now dubbed Jay's Beach in honor of the founder. We stripped down to almost normal beach attire and spent a couple of hours soaking up the rays, convinced finally that we were in the Bahamas!!! Tomorrow, first light, anchor up, and we're headed for Eleuthera.

January 8-9, 2010... Night Passage

First thing Friday morning John checked us into Bahamas customs and immigration; cruising permit good for 180 days; we're good for 90 days. Checked the weather and saw that another cold front was going to be making its way from the Arctic on Saturday, so we decided to run in front of the front to the Berry Islands. Left Bimini for the 95-mile passage to Devil's-Hoffman cove. Daylight sailing was good, but we decided to speed it up with the motor, to stay ahead of the weather. Crossing the Great Bahama Bank was really calm; no waves. We started 2-hour shifts at nightfall so that everyone could get some sleep. Again, Jay is our lucky charm. We had such a good run, we had to take one of the sails down and cut off the engine after Great Stirrup Key. We are the only people we know who intentionally sail slow -- we didn't want to arrive before daybreak to make the entrance into the cove. Not much sea life on display -- flying fish every once in a while, and beautiful phosphorescence in the water. The clear sky was a treat -- we saw every constellation we knew and then some.
Overnight highlight: tracking the location of the cruise ships is the task of the night watch. When Patti and Jay were on, we had the honor and privilege of encountering the largest cruise ship in the world, the Oasis of the Seas. Patti hailed the "cruise ship with the blue lights" to make sure we weren't on a collision course. Well, the Oasis officer on duty couldn't have been nicer, asking our location and confirming that he had us on radar. He also said we wouldn't be any trouble to him as he was 10 miles away. Well, they looked huge and seemed much closer!
We are now sitting in a beautiful turquoise water cove, surrounded by uninhabited islands, waiting for the front to pass. The winds are threatening and the skies are dark. We are depending on the Rocna tonight!
Devil's-Hoffman Cove, The Berrys: +25° 36' 22.68", -77° 43' 56.34"

January 7, 2010... Gulf Stream Crossing to The Bahamas

Well, we finally made it! After months of looking for the turquoise waters, we found them. Today we crossed from Key Biscayne to North Bimini, sailing beautifully for about half the journey. Midway the winds died down to nothing and we had to motorsail. But that's ok. And again, we had dolphins meet us as we were leaving Cape Florida. The best news was that the Gulf Stream was a total non-story. We guess that waiting for the weather window was worth it. We definitely had worse conditions on the ocean before, so this was really a breeze. With Jay spotting on the bow, we felt our way into the new dredged channel to Alice Town in North Bimini as most of the channel markers were missing. Once in, we went up the channel to anchor next to the Bimini Bay Resort Marina. Customs and immigration check-in will be tomorrow. But, this being our first foreign stop on our adventure, we made a really big deal of raising the Q flag. Grog for the crew!!

North Bimini, The Bahamas... +25° 44' 47.04", -79° 16' 55.26"

January 5, 2010... Best Ocean Sail Yet!

We woke this morning to more frigid temperatures and a semi-scary weather forecast for NW winds of 17-22 knots and seas of 3-5 ft plus the NW swell. We decided to head out to the ocean anyway, promising ourselves that we would come back in if the weather was too challenging. We are so glad we went! The winds were nowhere as strong as forecast until later in the afternoon and the seas were only 2-4 ft. We had a beautiful sunny sky and sailed the whole way from Port Everglades to Key Biscayne. It was a great day, though we could have used another 25 degrees of air temperature! No Name Harbor was a little crowded, so we decided to anchor just west of the state park. The best part of the day was off Miami Beach when the dolphins came to play in our bow wave and dive under and around our boat. See the attached movie skillfully filmed by the recent addition to the crew, Jay, who is dragging us into the 21st century.

Key Biscayne: +25° 40' 35.58", -80° 10' 0.48"

January 4, 2010... On Our Way Again!

After a wonderful break spending 6 weeks on land visiting with family, the crew of the Anhinga is once again on the move. Our son Jay has joined us for a couple of weeks, helping us cruise across to the Bahamas. First though, we are headed south from Delray Beach to Key Biscayne to stage our crossing. After moving Anhinga out of the slip at the Delray Harbor Club Marina (without hitting anything or anyone!!) and fueling, we were rewarded with a close-up pass with a couple of manatees. We have been lucky to see them in Delray from the dock before. Odd though, we transited 300 miles of ICW in Florida without seeing any! So this was special. We got back on the ICW and passed under eleven bridges to get to an anchorage on the Middle River in Ft. Lauderdale. Jay jumped in and took the wheel for most of the afternoon, negotiating all those bridges. Just listened to the National Weather Service and learned that there is a freeze warning in effect for all of southern Florida. Yikes! We can't get to the Bahamas too soon! Our target is a Wednesday crossing, but that may change as the weather dictates.

Middle River, Ft. Lauderdale: +26° 7' 56.16", -80° 7' 1.92"