Friday, March 30, 2018

Working our way through the Exumas

I am starting to type this post for the third time in the span of a week. We've been off-line more than we've been on, and it seems every time I want to work on the blog we're offline. I'd already typed several paragraphs, but their timeline no longer makes sense and I'm starting over.

Last night's sunset over the dinghy dock at Black Point.

We had a quiet night Sunday at Wax Cay, mostly alone. Monday's cruise was in relatively deep water along well-established routes. Traffic was busy, with great weather just before a big forecasted blow. Everyone that was moving was heading for cover someplace, us included.

I'm glad I managed to get the last post out when I did, around 8:30 Sunday evening. That's because a little over an hour later, the Internet disappeared entirely. Louise had already turned in for the night, so she was unaware until Monday morning. I spent perhaps an hour moving the SIM card around among the three devices which can accept it, but none would find a data signal from any spot on the boat. My T-Mobile SIM, which had also been roaming with no problems, also went offline, and after an hour or so of trying I finally concluded the cell tower had gone off-line and I turned on the TV.

Our anchorage at Big Majors Spot. That's the supply boat leaving Fowl Cay, threading his way through. Pig Beach is off-frame to the right. And, yes, the water is really that color all the time.

Monday morning we awoke still off-line, and nothing gets us moving faster after our first cup of coffee than having no Internet. Normally we at least check the weather, the major news headlines, and email before getting under way. We remained offline until less than an hour before arriving at Big Majors.

We arrived at Big Majors Spot around 2pm, threaded our way through the crowded anchorage, and dropped the hook in ten feet, as close as we could get to the protection of the island (map). We were all secure by 2:30, and not long afterward our friend Tom dropped by in their tender to suggest cocktails aboard their Outremer catamaran, Mac, around 4pm, followed by homemade chocolate cake. We didn't want just cake for dinner so Louise made a big salad to bring along.

We tendered over to Mac at the appointed time and did not return home until late in the evening. We know Tom and Tammy from our motorcycling days in California, when we saw them nearly weekly at group dinners. They had a guest aboard, Eva from Frankfort, Germany, whom we very much enjoyed meeting. It was great catching up with them and talking boats and cruising. What, in the motorcycle world, we used to call "telling lies and kicking tires."

We went to cocktails in relative calm, but we had a bit of a wet ride home as the forecast wind swiftly moved in. Wind speeds climbed throughout the night to roughly 30kt steady with gusts to 35 or so. Fortunately, holding in this anchorage is excellent and we did not witness anyone drag.

Sharks and rays hanging out at the Black Point Dock. Fishermen throw them scraps as they clean their catch.

Winds persisted well above 20kt for the next two days, more or less pinning everyone down to the anchorage. That did not stop the large, powerful Bahamian speedboats from ferrying boatloads of tourists to the beach to look at the pigs. Having done the whole pig thing on our first visit, we simply admired from afar. It seems that the most aggressive ones have been removed, and there is now a gazebo and a bunch of signage on the beach, along with some feed bins.

When we arrived Monday we had very slow but usable Internet access, and I was able to get an email out to the courier service to release my package from Fort Lauderdale. We were also able to check email and load a few pages when we we returned from dinner Monday night. I presumed that would persist and thought nothing further of it. So we were surprised when we awoke on Tuesday with, again, no Internet.

Unlike the situation at Wax Cay, where I literally had no data signal showing on any device, here at Big Majors both SIM cards registered 3g service. But no data would go through. Periodically I would do a ping test, and once in a great while some pings would come back with round-trip times of over ten full seconds. Whereas I think the tower at Norman's Cay had gone down entirely, here I think the tower was simply overwhelmed by well over a hundred boats (which means likely four to five hundred individuals) all pinned down by weather with  little else to do.

I ended up spending the day working on the backlog of projects around the boat, at least the ones I could do entirely indoors. Tom, Tammy, and Eva bashed their way over for afternoon cocktails, and after saying goodbye, we bashed our way over to Staniel Cay for a nice dinner at the Yacht Club and to pick up my package, which arrived on the morning flight.

Sharks resting under a boat at Staniel Cay Yacht Club.

Wednesday the winds started to abate, decreasing steadily throughout the day. We judged it still not optimal for leaving, although many boats did, including Mac, since Eva had a flight to catch out of Nassau. The Internet started working in squirts, adding credence to my overloading theory, and periodically throughout the day we'd get a message or email on one of our phones. Still not enough for browsing, although we could very patiently get the low-bandwidth version of the weather site to load.

I again spent the day doing projects, including installing the new grill element we just had delivered. By the evening we were again able to get email to load and check the news and social media. We had a quiet dinner aboard, although too windy to eat on the deck.

Yesterday morning we were finally able to load tide and weather information at will, and start to work on timing for making our outside run in Exuma Sound to Georgetown. It was pretty clear that our earliest window was Saturday, and we were tempted to simply remain at Big Majors another night, and perhaps go back over to the yacht club for a sandwich at the bar. It is, after all, a lovely anchorage, if a bit crowded, and there is always good people-watching.

Our anchorage at Black Point. Vector is third from left.

The lousy Internet connection persuaded us otherwise, and we decided to take our chances at Black Point Settlement instead. While less than ten miles away, Black Point has its own BTC office and tower, which we hoped would not be as overloaded as the one on Staniel Cay. We weighed anchor after lunch and made the short two hour hop to Great Guana Cay and the Black Point Settlement anchorage (map).

We splashed the tender in time to make it to happy hour at Scorpio's. We also enjoyed a nice walk through town, our first real stretch in a long while. We remained at Scorpio's for dinner and enjoyed meeting Byrne and Pat from the catamaran Spray. It was a pleasant evening and we returned to Vector at twilight. Upon arrival I discovered that the white all-around light on the stern of the tender had broken off and was trailing in the water; amusingly it was still illuminated, even with the LED bulb submerged and the globe full of water.

Happy hour beers and popcorn at Scorpio's

No sooner had we arrived back than some very loud live music cranked up from one of the establishments ashore. It went on well into the night; I ended up watching TV with my headphones on and Louise put her earplugs in to go to bed. Moving to Black Point was the right choice; our Internet was more or less back up to full speed.

This morning we went ashore to offload trash. Black point has a free collection bin on the dock, with a donation box attached. By contrast, garbage is several dollars a bag at Staniel and also in Georgetown. We also strolled down to the "blow hole" on the sound side of the island, passing Good Friday services in progress at the local church.

The Blow Hole. Hard to get a shot when the water is shooting up.

It's looking "ok" for a run down Exuma Sound tomorrow, so after we returned we decked the tender and weighed anchor for Cave Cay, the last accessible cut to the sound. It was an acceptable but choppy ride, with numerous waves splashing against the pilothouse windows. Tonight we are anchored in a familiar spot, across from the Cave Cay Marina (map). Still no services ashore here, so I grilled pork chops for dinner.

It's quiet here. A Krogen is about a half mile from us, and I can see four sailboats down near Musha Cay, David Copperfield's private resort island. I expect a quiet and pleasant night, and if conditions permit, tomorrow morning we will exit Cave Cay Cut and head down Exuma Sound to Elizabeth Harbor. If the weather does not cooperate, we'll remain another night. At least we have good Internet coverage here, courtesy of the uncrowded tower on nearby Little Farmers Cay.

Louise in front of the sand flats at Black Point.

1 comment:

  1. Ahoy Vector, re your internet woes, here's hoping Elon Musks plan to internet the world with satellites turns out to be feasible. Imagine an internet connection in the middle of the Atlantic, at, hopefully, a reasonable cost.


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!