One afternoon we all snorkeled on the wrecked wooden boat up against the rocks at West Pimlico Cay at House Bay, where Dave snorkeled two days before on our first day at Raccoon Cay. The base of the rock is covered in coral, gorgonians, anemones, feather dusters, little fish, shrimp and urchins. Chris especially enjoyed this snorkeling and showed us that if you stay still and quiet, many creatures show themselves that normally hide among the coral and underwater plants. After returning late to Liberty (it was nearly 7 pm before we got rinsed off and tucked in below), we enjoyed supper of hot chocolate and pineapple-coconut rice and a rousing game of Spades.
Double Breasted Cay and its surrounding cays exceeded our every expectation. We had heard about these cays from other cruisers, and were excited to finally arrive on Wednesday, May 6th. There is a very large, very shallow bay there, and we tucked in as far as we could without actually going aground. By 6 pm we were enjoying the absolutely gorgeous views at Double Breasted - anchored in the middle of a huge, shallow bay, over bright white sand, with a long island to our east, the shoreline a series of beaches separated by jagged rocky stretches, and smaller cays to our north and southwest - and no other boats or signs of humanity within miles!
We spent four more days at Double Breasted Cay and its surrounding cays, enjoying the solitude and natural beauty. Daily we explored pristine beaches, hiked over the rocky, hostile terrain to explore the wild windward side of the cay, and explored the area by dinghy. Dave hunted almost every day, and we did some great snorkeling on coral heads in the channel at slack tide. One day we dinghied to Loggerhead Cay, a tiny island with a high bluff, several beaches, and lots of rocky shoreline - but so small it was just a 10 yard walk from a beach on one side of the island to a beach on the other side, narrow enough that trash from the windward side could wash over the island to the generally clean leeward side. Dave found a longline fishing pole/marker (an 8 foot or so aluminum pole, with a small concrete weight on the bottom, a Styrofoam float in the middle and an aluminum radar reflector at the top) on a beach, and carried it up to the top of the high bluff, where he propped it up in a pile of rocks as a (semi) permanent marker. Small as it may be, there was enough hiking, tide pool exploring and general water play to occupy us for hours, all while being yelled at constantly by the two American oyster catchers that must call this island their home.
Nancy and Dave have taken to enjoying morning walks on secluded beaches during school, after the boys get their assignments and get going. On our first such walk at Double Breasted Cay, we saw half a dozen spotted eagle rays in the shallow waters of a huge bay. They swam/flew so gracefully in the 18 inch deep water, their wingtips breaking the surface, putting on a wonderful show for us. These are some of the most gorgeous creatures we've seen in the sea, 3 or 4 feet across, with big bodies, but graceful, beautiful, and stunning. Later the same day, while exploring with the boys, we saw them again. Unfortunately, we didn't have our camera with us! This time, our memories will just have to be enough.
Another treat at anchor was the afternoon arrival of a couple of lemon sharks who would swim back and forth under Liberty. One day we fed them a small snapper Dave had speared by accident (it looked larger under water than it turned out to be, and even Dave gets confused sometimes when hunting!) - we tossed it in, and the shark just glided by and swallowed it up. A couple of days later, after talking about it nonstop, Chris finally slipped into the water right next to the boat with the boys' underwater camera to take photos and even a movie of the sharks swimming around. He scrambled out pretty fast when they got closer than he wanted, but went back in several times to get "the right shot."
Dave spent one morning scrubbing a significant accumulation of grass growing on our bottom, evidence that we are staying put long enough to really enjoy cruising. We also got Independence, the boys' sailing dinghy, into the water with mast, boom and sail rigged. Chris and Josh enjoyed sailing around the bay and to the beach, on their own, for exploring, and at night we kept her tied to the bow of Liberty, fendered off to protect Liberty's hull.
On Saturday evening (May 9th), we were in the salon playing cards around 7:30 pm, when Nancy heard voices outside. Knowing we were all alone, or so we thought, we clambered up into the cockpit to find our Duncan Town friend Phil Wallace with two of his friends, Ty and Robert, in his new Contender center-console fishing boat, just back from an afternoon of offshore fishing. They had seen a ketch anchored and stopped to see if it was Liberty and say hello. We visited for a few minutes, and naturally, they asked if we were coming to Duncan Town for Mother's Day, and we couldn't say no (although we really had previously decided to skip Duncan Town this time). As Robert is half of the husband-wife team teaching at the Duncan Town All Age School, they also invited us to stay Monday and visit the school. Having committed to change our plans we bid them goodbye until the next day and quickly figured out how to ready the boat for a 3 hour passage that would get us to Duncan Town in time for church.
Early Sunday morning, Dave dragged Independence in to the beach, hauled it up high and tied it off to a tree, to remain there until we returned Monday afternoon. We raised anchor and were underway by 7 am, had a nice jib sail for the first 6 miles and then motored the last 5 to our anchorage at Hog Cay. After getting ready for church, a quick 4 mile dinghy ride brought us back to Duncan Town. Nancy was wearing her new limpet shell necklace, a Mother's Day gift from Josh that he made in recent weeks, collecting the shells in secret on our beach excursions and turning to Christopher for a bit of help to string it together. Worship was at the Church of God of Prophecy, where we worshiped a month ago for Easter. The pastor and other congregants remembered us, and not just because we were the only white folks on the island or in church - it was the chocolate chip cookies Nancy had baked Easter morn and brought to share! This time, not to disappoint, she made Rice Krispie Treats, and we shared them around again after the two hour service.
From church we headed over to the Bonefish Lodge to enjoy the use of their free, unsecured Wi-Fi signal, our first internet in over a week. Kit loaned us his golf cart so that we could make the 3 mile ride to the south end of the island to see Percy's infamous DC-3 airplane, perched atop a building that was once a bar/restaurant and is now being used as living quarters since the house out back burned down. We returned to Liberty late afternoon, after another enjoyable Sunday in Duncan Town. In the evening Chris and Dave made homemade caramel for Nancy - one of her favorite candies - as a Mother's Day treat. It turned out OK, kinda sorta.
We returned the next morning to visit the Duncan Town All Age School. Robert and Ophelia, originally from Guyana, are the husband-wife teaching team, and they have 11 students, aged 5 to 14 in grades K - 9. The oldest student, Myron, will go to Long Island next year to live with relatives and attend high school. He was a very talkative, self-assured young man, who will undoubtedly do well in high school and beyond. Robert showed us around the several buildings, housing science center, computer lab, lunch room, and a single large school room with chalkboards dividing the space into age/grade spaces. The school runs much like a Montessori school, with the teachers being able to accelerate or slow down the subject matter for each student, focusing on individual needs and abilities. In addition to the students, Robert and Ophelia have a two year old boy who comes to school with them, has a bed in the office for naps, and is taken care of by all the school children as their time permits. Chris and Josh were invited to join the students for lunch, and we all had a great time in our visit.
After our school visit we walked down through Duncan Town's salt ponds. In past years, salt was harvested commercially here, from evaporation ponds in the island's interior. Today salt is harvested primarily for personal use, and we meandered through the salt-encrusted paths and scooped up a few containers of salt to use on board. Finally we visited Maxine's store, where we all enjoyed ice cream sandwiches and picked up a few items. Phil filled our 5 gallon gasoline jug for dinghy gas (a great favor, as there is no gas station on the island, and each individual orders his own supply of gasoline in 55 gallon drums from Nassau, delivered weekly on the mail boat), and we headed back to Liberty, raised anchor at 3:25 pm, and sailed/motored the 11 miles back to Double Breasted Cay where we got the anchor down and set by 5:40 pm. We anchored in a little closer this time, and the next day found that at low tide we had just 4 to 6 inches of water under the keel (over soft sand, so no problem even if we did bump a little, which we didn't).
Our plan was to hang at Double Breasted Cay for a couple more days, then set sail back north on Thursday, May 15th in the relatively consistent 15 knot easterlies, bound for Cat Island, and eventually the Abacos and the USA. Monday morning's weather forecast didn't suggest that would be a bad plan, but by 7 am Tuesday morning we were actively discussing different plans. It seems a tropical wave (a low pressure system originating off the coast of Africa and traveling across the Atlantic, and which later in the year may spawn tropical depressions and storms and even hurricanes) had decided to push into the Bahamas, and we were in its path. For us this meant high winds and squalls, so we spent a while discussing whether we could make it all the way to Cat Island before the foul weather arrived, but we decided we could not. So, we hung in the Jumentos for an extra few days.
We spent the next morning snorkeling at one of our favorite reefs at Loggerhead Cay, then Dave and Chris had a great hunting session at some reefs on the backside of Loggerhead. By afternoon we decided that the anchorage at Double Breasted was getting pretty rolly, as this bay was not far removed from the open waters of the sound to the east and the winds were already picking up. So, we raised anchor at 2:25 pm and jib sailed 4 miles to Raccoon Cay, dropping the anchor in House Bay at 3:15 pm. We only turned on the engine for a few minutes to raise and set the anchor. We immediately launched the dinghy and headed for the beautiful beach. Josh and Chris built a sand-country, with at least 4 distinct kingdoms, roads between them, and alliances that would rival the politics of Merry Olde England, while Nancy cleaned seashells on the seashore. Dave snorkeled on a small reef off the beach, then all the way around West Pimlico Cay, a small cay (which could otherwise be called a very large rock raised up on a rocky pedestal) that is almost connected to Raccoon Cay (at low tide, the sand spit between the two islands is covered by about 8" of water). There is a wrecked wooden sailboat up against one shore, and very colorful coral formations all around the island, teeming with sea life.
Upon returning to Liberty we enjoyed a late dinner of surf & turf - grilled lobster tails and steak - before turning in. The next day during school Dave hunted (unsuccessfully - after nicking one snapper that got away, a shark showed up, looking hungry, and checking Dave's enthusiasm for fresh fish), then checked out the next bay north to determine whether the water was any smoother in the building winds. With Nancy's concurrence, we decided to move Liberty a whopping .89 miles to Spanish Well Bay, where it really was decidedly calmer, to wait out the tropical wave and its aftereffects. Spanish Well Bay (supposedly named after a well located on shore that was used by Spanish explorers) is very small, a U shaped bay with a tiny beach at
Another afternoon, we explored inland and found a blue hole in the interior of the island. It was perfectly round, very dark blue, and very still. While very pretty, it was also a bit eerie. We have no idea how deep it is or how it was formed. There is likely an outlet to the ocean somewhere below. As there was no one there to ask, we thought it prudent not to swim in it.
After a couple of days of strong wind, we got a window to sail north to Water Cay, 45 miles away. We were the only sailboat in the anchorage and we anchored next to a small fishing boat from Nassau. We called over and asked if they had any fresh fish we could buy. The captain came over with a bucket full of snapper and conch, for which he would take no money. After chatting a while, we learned that they were short on supplies, such as cigarettes and rum, and had been waiting days for a resupply boat. At that, we offered a bottle of rum in exchange for the generous gift of fish, and he gladly accepted.
We had had a great sail on Sunday, May 17th, and had planned to continue on the next day to Cat Island, about 80 miles away and across Exuma Sound. The weather forecast was for 20 knots and some squalls, but with worse weather the following day, so we decided to make a break for it. Unfortunately, just as we started to raise anchor, a big squall blew in. After waiting 2 hours for it to pass, we pulled up the anchor and got underway, thinking we could sail towards a break in the squall. After an hour of bashing our way through really crummy conditions, and realizing that it was not going to get better, we turned back to Water Cay for the rest of the day and night. The next day dawned much nicer, and we had a very pleasant sail across the banks, through Hog Cay Cut (no bumping this time), and back to George Town. Yes, we are back in George Town to do some boat projects (autopilot again, waterproofing our bimini top - it leaked like a sieve during the heavy rains of the previous few days - and more), provision, and wait for weather - it is blowing hard again!
We are hoping for quieter weather this weekend, so we can continue our sailing north to the Abacos to position ourselves for a run back to the USA, while enjoying a few more stops in the Bahamas on the way.
Love and best regards to all,
Dave, Nancy, Chris & Josh
Aboard s/v Liberty, George Town, Bahamas
Jewel of the Jument◊s:
Double Breasted Cay and more...
the head and rocky shorelines along the sides. We anchored between the rocky points, not more than 50 yards from the beach and about the same from each side, in 10 feet of water at low tide, with the anchor buried deep in sand - the best holding. We were joined there by large starfish and stingrays, the latter of which Nancy hoped would clean a conch shell for her. Earlier Nancy had found a very pretty conch shell on the beach, still inhabited by its already dead conch. Knowing that stingrays love conch, she threw it overboard next to the boat in the hopes that a stingray would find a tasty treat and leave her the pretty shell. Well, first they only ate half of the conch, making it even more difficult for Nancy to clean, and then it disappeared all together, shell and all. What carried off that conch shell is still quite a mystery.
The tropical wave arrived in the middle of the night, of course. The evening's cloudy, squally weather with occasional rain showers blossomed into a big squall that passed over us around 4 am, bringing winds to over 30 knots and hard driving rain. The worst of it passed quickly, in under 30 minutes, and we could see scattered stars again. We were left with strong, gusty winds for another few days, which made the batteries very happy - the wind generator put out lots of amps and we could run the watermaker and fill the tanks.
Beautiful, clear, turquoise waters
Dave proudly placed this marker atop Loggerhead Cay
An oystercatcher swooping
toward the dunes and yelling at us
"The Right Shot"
Chris got in the water to get this amazing picture of the lemon shark
Chris & Josh sailed Independence around the anchorage and to the beach to explore
Liberty at anchor in 6 ft. of water: we were all alone in this paradise
Kit loaned us his golf cart
Percy's DC-3, perched atop his house/restaurant
The entire class at the Duncan Town All-Age School
The Duncan Town All-Age School
The "One Room School House" is divided by chalk boards
Dave collecting sea salt from the salt ponds in Duncan Town
A coral reef seen from the dinghy, Justice
The boys made a
giant sandcastle kingdom
These ruins (from who knows what) were on Racoon Cay for us to explore
and coral abounded
on these little
One of the largest starfish we have ever seen!
A bright orange
cushion sea star
A very cool sailboat shipwreck
This awesome blue hole
was in the interior of Raccoon Cay
These fishermen gave us snapper and conch in return for rum
Chris & Josh hanging
out on Loggerhead Cay
Chris & Josh on the
wing of Percy's DC-3
Another one of Chris
& Josh's sandcastle kingdoms
Chris spearfishing; Josh
in the background helping to spot
Chris & Josh at Double Breasted Cay