Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Exumas Shimmer Under the Sun

Looking over our shoulders at Ship Channel Cut

From Davis Harbour in Eleuthera our cruising route takes us south down the Exumas chain of islands in the Bahamas. A chance meeting with Judy and Buck who were preparing to leave Davis aboard their sport fishing boat Addiction, changed our minds about the cut we’d take to enter the chain from Exuma Sound. We’ve had winds over 20 knots over the past couple of weeks and as a result the sea states will be high. We decided against Highborne Cut in favour of Ship Channel Cut because it is wider and should be easier to navigate.

We timed our crossing well and managed just fine with the wind behind us and waves six to ten feet. When we looked back at the line of breaking waves from the relative calm waters at Ship Channel Cay, we were glad we weren’t having to attempt a crossing in the opposite direction.

First stop, the northern end of the chain, Allan’s Cay, to check out the iguanas on the beach.

Highborne Cay, Exumas

Daisie tries to do her duty at Highborne

Norman's Cay was once lorded over by a drug baron. Only wrecked planes and bullet-ridden ruins remain of those days.

Daisie loves a game of running back and forth on the beach at Norman's.

Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

The view is not the only reward at the end of a long dinghy ride through the mangroves and a climb up the hill on the Sound side of Shroud Cay.

A barracuda swims lazily past us and the mangroves in the Land and Sea Park.
All on land and in the sea are protected here.

Look, no barnacles! Our bottom paint is doing it's job.

Can the water possibly get any more beautiful? When the water is still you could see a starfish twenty feet below! The further south we go the more amazed we become by the clarity and hue; to describe the sight of the water in varied hues as blue, cobalt or tourquoise just does not do any justice to the experience. There’s a shimmering irridesence to the water against the sand and sky that can’t be captured in words or pictures.

At anchor, Bristol Rose and our dinghy (center) in Warderick Wells, the park headquarters.

The mooring field in Warderick Wells is a narrow channel and reservations are taken on VHF channel 09 at 9.00am each day. A stop here is full of wonderful surprises including sweet little birds that feed right out of your hand.

This curly-tailed lizard is a real poser. It was a pleasure to take his picture.

Bristol Rose and Starshine (l-r)

Two Shannons in one anchorage! That's a beautiful sight. At Norman’s Cay we finally catch up with Dave aboard his gorgeous Shannon 38, Starshine. At 26 years or thereabouts, she’s still a stunner. These Shannons are semi-custom, built to last and hold up well over the years. We met Dave in Maryland at the marina where we had found Bristol Rose for sale. We’ve kept in contact and celebrated Memorial Day 2008 with Starshine on the Chesapeake Bay. Dave left the Bay about a week before us and we've finally caught up with him. He's headed to George Town so we'll see him along the way.


Here we are reflecting upon the water. No apologies for the pun.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Eleuthera Reflections

The ruins of the W.P. Stewart home, Royal Island, Eleuthera

Floor tiles

Abandoned years ago.

Our first stop on the island of Eleuthera is Royal Island. There is no town center near the anchorage, only signs of construction and demolition around the small, protected harbour. We are told that a golf resort is being built, the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club! In the process, the ruins of what must have once been a beautiful home, the W.P. Stewart home built in the 1930's, are being demolished.

From Royal we make our way through the Current Cut (very appropriately named!). With the engine revving at 3000rpms and our speed at 6.5 knots, speed over ground is a miserly 2.9 knots due to the opposing current in the cut.

Approaching Current Cut, we follow the deeper water around and through the channel. It looks like just a narrow strip of water - and it is just that.

Glass Window. A number of people have been washed away when huge waves have crashed over the bridge. The bridge has even shifted but remains the crossing point from one end of Eleuthera to the other.

We get in a little sailing past Glass Window - well, we beat into the wind at around 25 knots, and anchor off the palm-fringed beach at Mutton Fish Point with no other boat in sight.

Bristol Rose anchored off the beach, Mutton Fish Point, Eleuthera

After six and a half hours sailing, or rather, beating into the wind again and tacking back and forth, we anchor at Governor's Harbour, a comparatively "bustling" town settled in 1648 by the Eleuthera Adverturers who came from Bermuda.

Tiny Cupid's Cay is joined to Governor's by a land bridge. One of our "discoveries" on Cupid's is what appears to be a road cut four to six inches into the rock and leading up and around the headland. Twisted, searching roots cut the rock here and there. The trees lining the road are leafless and sun-bleached, indicating those roots were not very successful in their search for any long-term sustenance! It's a harsh, dry landscape and we find ourselves often making comparisons with Australia.

Aussie import, the Casuarina (soil erosion preventer) is listed as one of the five most undesirable plants in the Bahamas due to the ability to "cramp" native species of plants.

Posted at the museum in Hope Town, Abaco.

We found this block (approx. 2'x2'x3') of rubber on the ocean-side beach of Rock Sound

Mr. Horton talks with Robert and Randy about the efforts to build a garden of native flora around the site of the blue hole in Rock Sound. He volunteers his time to the project.

The people of Rock Sound are very industrious and despite the fact that folks in the Bahamas have as difficult a time as you can imagine in the current financial times, they are warm and friendly and extremely welcoming.

The narrow entrance to Davis Harbour

Bristol Rose is among some truly beautiful pleasure fishing boats in Davis Harbour Marina

Davis Harbour is our last stop in Eleuthera, before we cross to the Exumas. While Homewood Bound heads north to the Abacos, Bristol Rose, Step Two, and Sand Castle all leave Rock Sound together, heading for Davis Harbour to stage for various points south.

We don't mess with Barracuda of any size. Teeth aside, the possibility of ciguaterra poisoning is not worth the risk. is a good resource if you're interested in more about the island.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Fair Winds, Calm Seas!

Homeward Bound sails out of Rock Sound on a misty morning.

The night is young, where shall we start?

Alas, we bid a sad farewell to our mates Pat and Randy this morning. The past ten days in Rock Sound, Eleuthera have been wonderful with their company and that of the others on the few vessels at anchor here. 

The friendliness of the local people also has added to our enjoyment and we’ll be sad to move on tomorrow.  

Daisie gets plenty of attention!

We'll sail for Davis Harbour on the south west coast of Eleuthera early in the morning to refill our water and diesel tanks, get some laundry done and stage for our next step.  From Eleuthera, that will mean crossing the Exuma Sound and working our way to Allan's Cay through one of the cuts.  The cuts can be rough when the winds are blowing against the currents that rage through them.  Most are fairly narrow and at times it can be downright dangerous so we will time our crossing to minimize any high seas and opposing winds.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Homeward Bound in Rock Sound

Starfish Smile.

Yep, we are homeward bound for Australia via a long and roundabout route but that’s not the subject of this post. We’ve finally caught up with our mates Pat and Randy sailing aboard their beautiful home, S/V Homeward Bound. They made it easy for us since they have turned north from George Town, while we are heading south through Eleuthera and on to the Exumas and George Town.

Pat and Randy, S/V Homeward Bound in Rock Sound

We last saw Pat and Randy at their farewell on the Chesapeake Bay back in September. Fun times were had with them and the E Pier crew at the White Rocks Marina in Pasadena where we kept our first sailboat, Sandpiper.

Robert, Daisie, Warren (S/V Sandcastle), Linda (M/V Step Two) and Randy
at the Super Bowl Bahamas style.

If making new friends is one of the sweetest things about cruising (and it is!) then revisiting old friends is the icing on the cake. We’re thoroughly enjoying both during our stay at Rock Sound, Eleuthera. The Tiki Bar in Rock Sound televised the Super Bowl so all the cruisers in the harbour - all 5 boats, turned up to watch the game. Yeah, Steelers!

Everyone in Rock Sound is super-friendly. You risk getting a sore throat and strained waving arm just walking down the street, from all the greetings. We got to see a little more of Eleuthera when fellow Super Bowl revelers, Jeff and Laurie, drove us to the beach for snorkling and to see their island home.

Great weather for ducks.

It seems the weather has conspired to prolong our planned stay in Rock Sound and it looks like we will be here for a while yet. The cold weather through the States has blown across to the Bahamas. Gone are the days of temps in the 70’s; the cold fronts, one after another are bringing high winds, the occasional squall and temps in the 60’s. That doesn’t stop us from getting out and about and taking the opportunity to spend time with our mates. Check Pat and Randy’s blog for more pictures of us all having a great time.

Hunters and Collectors

Bristol Rose raising the main as we sail out of Royal Island, Eleuthera. We're flying the Australian flag in honor of Australia Day, January 26.

Hunters and Collectors are one of our favourite Aussie bands and I thought the name was a fitting title for this post. We're enjoying fishing and fossicking in the Bahamas.

This series of photographs is especially for Owen and Elliot and Robert’s family who are always interested to know, “what’s biting?” and for our sailing mates on the high seas. Wishing you, Tight lines!

A dolphin fish (mahi mahi) on the hook

Once aboard, the dolphin fish loses much of it's vibrant bright color.

Gloves are a good idea for handling this Mutton Snapper with its spikey fins.

You can tell by the look on Robert’s face that catching fish for dinner gives him a great deal of satisfaction. He’s been catching fish since he was knee high to a grasshopper. Some of Robert’s best memories are of camping at Woody Head on the New South Wales coast and tagging along as just a tot with his Dad and Grandpa to fish off the beach and rocky headlands.

Sailing through the cuts from relatively shallow water, over the drop offs and across water sometimes 14,000 feet deep gives us a great opportunity to catch fish. Watching the small, colorful tropical fish in the shallows is also a lot of fun.

Can you imagine a more idyllic spot for a cabin?

Tropical fish swim and hide around the rocky shoreline below the cabin verandah. The bright blue and yellow fish were about 4 inches long and very shy.

The water is so clear we can see the fish very easily. The water in the Abacos has been a little cold for snorkling so we enjoy motoring around the rocky shoreline to try to see what’s underwater. The shots from the bobing dinghy are not the sharpest but you’ll get the general idea of the wide variety of colorful fish, big and small from these "above water" shots.

We are told that the lion fish are an introduced pest and should be killed to prevent their destruction of the grouper population. Even so, these two make a strikingly beautiful pair.

The one picture I wish I had was of a spotted stingray about 5’ across, swimming directly in front of us when we took the dinghy to shore at dusk in Governor’s Harbour. You should have seen it!
The shot that got away! I'll stick to photography.

Monday, 2 February 2009

A Look at Life in the Abacos

Life in the Abacos varies from island to island with each having it's own character. We spent a few days in Man-O-War, where boat building is not only history for the descendants of the early European settlers; it remains an important industry on the island. Most of the current residents share the name Albury which is synonymous with boat building expertise in the Abacos.

Robert goes aloft, 63 feet, in Marsh Harbour!

Marsh Harbour is a major population center for the Abacos. Electronic stores seem to dominate the commercial landscape. There are a number of marinas and the harbour also accommodates a large number of boats at anchor. We anchored safely for a few days as a cold front passed.

Hope Town Lighthouse

The road on the hill, at Hope Town Harbour Lodge

View from hilltop Tiki Bar

Hope Town on Elbow Cay must be the sweetest spot in the Bahamas with it's picture postcard perfect cottages all decked out in pretty pastels and contrasting shutters. A predominate feature is the red an white candy stripe lighthouse built in 1862. It's one of the last of only 3 manually operated and kerosene fueled lighthouses in the world. Most of the cute cottages appear to be available for rent. The Tiki bar at the Hope Town Lodge sits on a hill overlooking the ocean. It's hard to imagine a more perfect spot to rest for a while.

Although on many islands we see boarded-up houses, still standing but damaged by hurricanes, this cottage is a rare sight in Hope Town.

Pete's Bar on Little Harbour

Peaceful Tilloo Cay provides anchorages from which to dinghy into Little Harbour where sculptor Randolph Johnston settled with his young family in the early 50s. Today his son Pete keeps the foundry operating and producing sculpture depicting the life of the sea. We happened to anchor just outside the shallow Little Harbour and dinghied in for a drink on the day Pete was celebrating his birthday. He celebrates each year with an art auction to benefit a local children's organization.

The Gallery at Little Harbour

After a bumpy night at anchor just outside Little Harbour, we headed off to the ocean side through the Little Harbour cut to begin our cruise down the western shore of the island of Eleuthera.