Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Out of the tropics

We are anchored back in Elizabeth Harbour, across from George Town, Great Exuma (map). We're just a little west of where we anchored earlier, owing in large part to the fact that the harbor has emptied out considerably.

Thursday afternoon we splashed the tender to head ashore for dinner. Rather than go into town, we opted instead to make our way across Thompson Bay to the small resort of Tiny's Hurricane Hole, on the Indian Hole Peninsula that protects the northern part of the bay. Resort may be a misnomer; it's two beach cabins with a tiki bar and grill.

Sign marking the Tropic of Cancer, which bisects Long Island.

Landing the tender there turned into something of a clown show. The information online said there was a small channel adjacent to a limestone rock jetty that would allow us to get the dink all the way to the beach. That proved incorrect; we ran out of water less than halfway from the head of the jetty to the shore. With rocks strewn on the bottom I took the engine out of gear, and then the fun started...

Winds were perhaps 10-15 and parallel to shore. With no power, that quickly swept us away from the limestone jetty and into much shallower water and finally up against the other jetty, which was earth and stone. We simply could not paddle hard enough against the wind to get back into deeper water. After perhaps five minutes of struggling and pushing against the bottom and the jetty, we got out far enough to start the motor and head back out into deeper water.

Our second pass was much smoother. Rather than try to get ashore we just nosed up to the end of the limestone jetty, stepped out, and tied off to the rocks. Lesson learned regarding this particular stop. Of course, the six patrons already at the tiki bar got a great show; I flipped my hat over for tips when we walked in. One patron offered to buy us a beer.

Scalar tied to the end of the jetty, finally. Vector is a white spec in the background.

All's well that ends well and we had a nice casual dinner near the beach. My burger was excellent, but Louise's fish sandwich was disappointing enough that she scratched the place off the list. We enjoyed meeting fellow cruisers Doug and Sandy on the catamaran Alibi. They had landed their dink in town and ridden their folding bikes the two miles out to the bar.

Friday morning we loaded all our trash into the dinghy and headed to town to get a car. I had called Thursday to get pricing and information and say we would be in in the morning; nevertheless, the car rental was deserted when we arrived. After making a few calls we learned the proprietor had gone to the next town to take care of some business, and promised to return in "a half hour." That's island time, mon -- they returned an hour later. We found a couple of chairs and sat down in the shade.

Our econobox

For $65 we got a tiny Suzuki with a stick shift. The Bahamas is a drive-left country, but this car was left-hand-drive, which suited me fine because my stick-shift muscle memory is all in my right arm. We headed north to explore the island in air-conditioned comfort. We had contemplated dropping the scooters at the government dock instead, but 100+ miles is a long day in the tropic sun.

First stop was the Stella Maris airport to extend our cruising permit and update our customs and immigration paperwork. After that we went almost to the northernmost tip of the island; the unpaved road that leads to the tip and the Columbus monument thereon became too tenuous for the little Suzuki perhaps two miles from the end and we turned around.

We then drove all the way south to very nearly the southern tip of the island. We stopped in Clarence Town to see what we missed on our brief stop there in the boat. And we tried to find "Hard Bargain," across from which we spent such a miserable night, but there is not even a sign on the road.

Sign at Dean's Blue Hole. It's really in second place. They have free-diving competitions here.

On our return trip north we drove out to Dean's Blue Hole, which is the second-deepest blue hole in the world (signage at the site optimistically lays claim to first place). It's quite impressive, and I thought to maybe go swimming or even jump off the low limestone cliff overhanging the steep side. We brought our suits with us, but lack of any way to rinse off the saltwater after swimming persuaded me to give it a skip, as we intended to remain ashore for dinner. If I had thought to bring my snorkel gear I might have changed my mind.

You can walk along in calf-deep water and then suddenly find yourself in 600'. Platform in the center supports the free-diving cable. Better photos abound on the Internet.

We refueled the rental car at the lone gas station in town. That happens to be next door to Regatta Park, which was abuzz with workers painting and freshening things. It turns out that the Long Island Regatta is this week. We asked around town if that attracted a lot of cruisers, but it's too late in the season.

At just 50 miles long, we had explored the entire island by 5pm, and we stopped at Sou' Side bar and grill right across from the dinghy landing for an early dinner. A quick trip next door for groceries wrapped up our shore leave. We parked the car with the keys still in it back at the rental place, as instructed, and headed back to the dinghy.

This old "fisherman" anchor was on the dinghy dock. Perhaps recently recovered from a wreck.

Saturday morning we decided we'd got our fill of Salt Pond, and opted to cruise up to the northern tip of the Island and anchor off the beach at Calabash Bay. If we were lucky we could land the tender on the beach right at the Cape Santa Maria Resort for a nice dinner, and maybe have a relaxing couple of days. I needed to work on the watermaker, and had figured to do that here, too.

We ended up transiting the fairly shallow channel across the northern reaches of the bank right at low tide, with, at times, just a foot of water under the keel. But we got through without incident, crossing the Tropic of Cancer and emerging into the deep water of Exuma Sound, just as a line of squalls caught up to us.

Vector (at right) in Thompson Bay, as see from the car rental.

We could see a couple of boats in the Calabash Bay anchorage. But getting into this bay requires visual navigation through a coral field. That requires good light, and relatively calm seas. At that moment, we had neither. I could see on the radar that the squalls would pass, but the forecast showed nothing but overcast for the rest of the day, and all day Sunday as well. Already in Exuma Sound, we turned west and headed for George Town, rather than finding a place to wait it out on Long Island.

We pulled up here right at 5pm, amazed to see the anchorage mostly empty and with our pick of spots. We got the hook set just before another squall came through. An hour later when the squall had passed, it was followed by a water spout which came right down the channel, passed us perhaps 100 yards away, and continued to a landfall in George Town. Louise grabbed the radio mic and alerted the anchorage as we saw it coming. Blu on the Water posted this video on their Facebook page; if you look closely you can see the spout passing Vector in the distance.

Best shot I could get of the funnel cloud after it passed us. Click to enlarge.

Sunday I set to work on the water maker. The last time we ran it, the production dropped to less than 3gph and it eventually "stalled" again. I suspected problems at the top end of the motor, and so I pulled the motor off and opened it up. Sure enough, tons of brush dust in there just in the last 300 hours, and one of the brush springs appears to be end-of-life. The brushes themselves have quite a bit of wear, although still within limits per the manufacturer.

I don't have spares for these, so I cleaned all the dust out of the motor with a vacuum and copious amounts of compressed air, cleaned up the commutator with fine sandpaper, and put the best spring with the shorter brush and vice-versa. Yesterday it ran all day at an average production of over 6gph, an improvement but still shy of spec.

Motor brushes. Left one is more worn. They are 0.87" long when new.

Sunday evening we wanted to go back to the Lumina Resort for dinner, since we enjoyed it on our last visit. They informed us they no longer accept dinner guests from outside the resort; phooey. So we had a casual meal at the St. Francis instead, which was as good as we remembered from three years ago.

I spent most of yesterday planning routes to take us from here to Nassau by way of Cat and Little San Salvador islands. We bashed our way across the harbor to go to town for dinner. After a casual meal on the deck at Blu on the Water at the Exuma Yacht Club, whose docks finally reopened since we left in April, we took a stroll around Lake Victoria. Eddie's was just gearing up for their weekly Rake and Scrape as we walked by; neither of us was much in the mood for dancing in a 90-degree room so we kept on walking.

Weather for a crossing to Cat Island is not acceptable until tomorrow at the earliest and more likely Thursday. We'll exit the harbor to the north, cross the sound, and anchor in the bight. From there we will work our way northwest to the southern tip of Eleuthera, stopping at Little San Salvador on the way. This latter island is better known as Half Moon Cay, the name Holland America bestowed upon it when they built a private facility there for cruise guests. Our last Holland America cruise had to skip it due to weather, so we will make up for it now.

The sure sign of the end of the season in George Town: an empty dinghy dock. Admittedly this is after the market had closed for the day.

We've already cruised Eleuthera, so other than a quick overnight stop we will simply cross back over to the Exumas at Ship Channel. From there its a long day across the bank to Nassau Harbor. We made reservations at a secure marina there so I can fly to my Red Cross training in Dallas while Louise takes care of the boat and the cat.

In case you missed it, we've already had the first named topical storm of the season, Alberto, even though the season does not officially start for another two days. We don't have a magic date in our insurance policy; our deductible just increases significantly during named storms unless we are north of the Carolinas. Still, we'd rather not take too many chances, and so once I return to Nassau it will be high time to start heading north. The fact that there are perhaps fewer than fifty boats left in the harbor here is a sure sign.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post and photos....fun to read your Blog and then view Google Earth to trace your travels!....Great! Thanks so much for sharing!


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