ince our last update, we've left George Town (for good, we thought), spent two weeks enjoying the slower life in the Jumentos, and now - we're back in George Town! In our last update we wrote about the Family Island Regatta in George Town, and Christopher's and Joshua's participation in the junior races. After spending another 10 days there, we finally got away on Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 9:30 am. We had gone to George Town on April 21st for the Family Island Regatta, then got stuck in a compression zone - high winds blowing day in and day out for a week or so. There were probably 100 or more boats in George Town for Regatta, most itching to leave shortly after Regatta ended on Saturday, April 25th. The winds began moderating on Wednesday, and a few intrepid souls left then, including our friends Alan and Patricia on Nauti-Nauti. Almost everyone was
heading north, or northwest, back tothe US via the Exumas and Nassau,and with the winds out of the east-southeast, even when still blowing moderately hard, the sailing conditions were tolerable. Thursday saw another group of folks leave, all heading north, and on Friday it was a veritable race to the cut - the north cut, that is. On Saturday morning the only boats left were folks who were heading across Exuma Sound to Cat Island (due north), a few friends who wanted to head northeast to Conception Island, and us - and we were the only boat we knew of heading south, back to the Jumentos for another week or so in paradise, because our two weeks there a month ago just wasn't enough.
We spent our last evening in George Town on Side by Side, visiting with a family we first met at Flamingo Cay in the Jumentos and with whom we have become quite friendly. The boys spent that afternoon wakeboarding behind Side by Side's dinghy, with Mark at the helm. Chris seems to have this sport down pat, and Josh got up for a bit also - his first time! The boys really enjoy dinghy watersports - whether being pulled in our inflatable tube, or waterskiing on Taua's water-skis, or wakeboarding. Of course, as our dinghies race around the anchorage, the other anchored boats sometimes fondly cheer on the kids, or sometimes grouse about the wakes we make. Oh well - kids are young but once. After our evening saying goodbye (for now) to Side by Side, we got back to Liberty late, but still got a good night's rest in preparation for our departure.
We had dinghied over to George Town on Friday morning (in calmer seas) to do laundry, provision and get internet. We arose early Saturday to get the boat ready to leave, even though we couldn't leave before 9 am or so - we were heading for Hog Cay Cut, with a hard bar we can cross only with "tide help" (more on this later). Nancy & Josh went to shore for an early morning shell-collecting walk on the beach while Chris helped Dave get the boat ready to get underway. With winds out of the east, and a course of 115°, we motorsailed from the anchorage, waving goodbye to our few friends left on the way out. The first part of our journey took us out Elizabeth Harbour via the southeast cut into 60 feet or so of water for three miles, then back on to the shallow banks for a while longer, a total of 18 miles from our anchorage to Hog Cay Cut. This cut saves a few hours of sailing through deeper waters, the only caveat being that "tide help" is necessary to get through safely - after passing through the narrow, winding cut between islands, one must pass over a hard coral bar carrying only 3 feet at low water, and Liberty draws 4'3" or so. Using the tides is something a Bahamas cruiser must get used to, and we have. With low tide at 9 am and high tide not until 3 pm, we left George Town around 9:30 am so we would arrive at Hog Cay Cut at 12:30 pm, about mid-tide. Of course, there's also a strong current flowing through the cut, carrying us inshore, rushing towards the shallow bar. The channel between the islands was deep, probably 10 to 15 feet, but then as we went through, it petered out into brown water all around - shallow! - and we started across the hard coral bar. With a grinding crunch, we bumped the bottom once, losing about 6 feet of bottom paint from the keel, but nothing more. We emerged from Hog Cay Cut into 5 feet of water over sand for a mile more, then finally into deep water - 6 feet - where many sailboats would still be aground. Sometimes we really love our shoal-draft Morgan Out Island.
In addition to clearing the shallow water, we also turned 90 degrees to the south, so we could sail in the easterly winds. Once we got into the 6 foot water, we set all sails and cut the engine, and off we went. We had a beautiful 4 hours of sailing, making between 5 and 6.5 knots the entire way, ending by sailing into the anchorage at Water Cay, and then onto the hook, never turning on the engine. Dave and the boys did dive on the anchor to make sure it was set well. While they were snorkeling around, they found a triton's trumpet (a type of snail about 10" to 12" long) eating his dinner - a big cushion starfish. We brought him up on deck for a while to watch the amazing process. We're not so sure the tritons' trumpet was thrilled about the interruption of his meal, but we
soon returned him (and his meal) to the white sandy bottom of the anchorage, filled with wonder at yet another hands-on experience of our natural world. We then enjoyed our own dinner of grilled cheeseburgers and turned in early.
We planned to put in 15 miles or so offshore, heading back onto the banks at Nurse Channel. The sea depths in this part of the world are not very well charted, and except for the charted channels back onto the banks, there is very little detail for the waters within a mile or so of the island chain that marks the edge of the banks. The offshore charts for this area show a wide band of 35 foot water, when in actuality the water may be deeper than our depth sounder will read (over 1500 feet) or as shallow as 35 feet. When fishing, we like to try to stay right on the "drop-off", where the sea floor drops away like the wall of a house, from 50 feet to 1000 feet or more. We inadvertently sailed from deep water - where the mahi-mahi and tuna live - into an area of 40 foot water - where barracuda roam - and sure enough, when our reel next buzzed it was a big 'cuda on the line. We don't eat these for fear of ciguatera poisoning, a neurotoxin that collects in fish at the top of the food chain when the food chain is composed of fish that eat coral (from which the neurotoxin comes). After heading back out to deeper water to find the drop-off again, we had another strike, and this time the fish jumped - it was a big dolphin (mahi-mahi)! As Dave reeled it in, the boys were watching it and its mate (dolphin always run in male-female pairs), and they realized the mate was biting at the plastic squid lure that had slid up the monofilament leader. Suddenly the line went slack and the rod sprung up straight - our supper's mate had
bitten through the leader, and the happy couple swam off (one either less happy because it had our hook stuck in its gums, or more happy because that same hook was no longer attached to our fishing line, and the other just happy that the marriage was not severed by our filet knife). Aaarrggghhhh! We have not had a successful big fish landing for a long, long time, and it is getting very frustrating! We had a good sail from the deeps onto the banks at Nurse Channel, then sailed south past Nurse Cay and into our anchorage at Buena Vista Cay, just off the long beach. Our fishing expedition added a few miles and a couple of hours to our day, but we still had the hook set by 5 pm. No fresh fish for dinner, but we pulled some snapper from the freezer and had that instead.
On Monday after school, we explored Buena Vista Cay, hiking up and down the long beach. It turns out that while there is a continuous 1.35 mile stretch of sand, it is mostly rock at the waterline with sand above, with only a few short stretches where the sand goes all the way down into the water and beyond, the way most folks would define "beach". There is actually a lot of that here, stretches of beach that have a rocky shoreline right at the waterline, so at low tide the mostly flat rocks are exposed and at high tide they are covered by water, making dinghy landing on many beaches (especially at mid-tide or better) a somewhat challenging proposition. Nancy and Dave did take a morning walk on the short oceanside beach in the morning while the boys were doing
The next morning we snorkeled on some nice coral heads at the south end of the island, but the fairly quick arrival of a big bull shark convinced us we'd seen enough. As we were heading out from Liberty for our snorkeling excursion, we saw three skiffs and a group of fishermen obviously working nets just a quarter mile or so west of where we were anchored. When it was clear they were done pulling their nets in, we dinghied over, approaching slowly until they indicated it was OK to pull alongside. They were fishermen from Spanish Wells, a settlement on Eleuthera Island a couple of hundred miles to the northwest, down in the Jumentos to catch snapper during the late spring full moons when the snapper school to breed. They had a boatful of fish, including a very nice hogfish lying on top, and after explaining how they work their nets (one boat holds one end, another stretches out the net and starts to bring it around a coral head, and divers from the third boat go into the water and chase the fish from the coral head into the net, and lift the bottom of the net over and around the coral before drawing it in tight at the bottom so the net can then be hauled up and emptied into the skiff) they offered us some fish. We happily took the hogfish, and a half dozen smaller snappers and goatfish - plenty of filets for 3 meals. Interestingly, these 8 or 10 Bahamian fishermen from Spanish Wells were all white. We have heard that Spanish Wells is pretty much a white settlement, populated by the descendents of British settlers and loyalists who fled the new United States in the 1780s. We may have an opportunity to stop there on our way north later this month.
their school lessons, and saw white tailed tropic birds flying around and to and from their cliff nesting places (although the rocky bluffs were only 20 or so feet high, it must be enough to keep these birds happy). We first saw white tailed tropic birds nesting on the cliffs and flying about at Powell Cay in the Abacos last spring. With their very long white tail feathers, they are quite beautiful swooping around the skies.
Having walked the long beach, snorkeled with the shark and collected dinner from kind fishermen, we decided that while pretty enough, Buena Vista Cay didn't offer enough to hold us longer, so we raised anchor at 1:30 pm and jib sailed the nine miles south to Double Breasted Cay. Continue with us on the next update, as we discover the Jewel of the Jumentos. Until then, enjoy the sunsets.....
Our goal in returning to the Jumentos was pretty simple - to visit two cays, Buena Vista and Double Breasted, both in the southern part of the chain. Buena Vista Cay is noted for its very long beach, the longest in the Jumentos. On Sunday, May 3rd we set sail early, out onto the banks for the 40 mile sail south to Buena Vista. Winds were moderate, great for sailing, so we spent the first 15 miles on the banks sailing in the lee of Flamingo Cay and Man-O-War Cay. At Man-O-War we turned on the engine, turned the bow east and passed into the deep waters of the Crooked Island Passage where we hoped we would fill the freezer with fish. Within a few minutes of putting our lures out, Whizzz! went the reel, and we sprung into fish-fighting mode. Our excitement faded fast when the rod sprung back up straight even faster than we had sprung, because the lure had failed. Dave had pulled an old lure out of our fishing bag, one that was a little rusty, and the leader failed at its attachment point to the hook. The way the rod had bent over suggested it was a big fish, too!
Lemon shark under our boat
Terns rest on a
sand spit exposed
at low tide
of the Jumentos
Josh wake boarding
behind Side by Side's dinghy
Chris one-handed on the wakeboard!
This Triton's trumpet is eating a starfish
Josh in the dinghy after a snorkeling trip
Beautiful, crystal clear water of the Jumentos
Arriving at Buena Vista Cay
Chris snorkeling above the underwater gardens at Buena Vista Cay
Beautiful Sunsets over the Jumentos