We said goodbye to Bimini on a reasonably calm day, as the winds blew steadily from the north. They were forecasted to shift to the east, as our course toward the Exumas gradually shifted to the southeast. It was going to be a close-hauled trip, but we were hoping to sail a good bit of it, if possible. We would travel across the Great Bahamas Banks throughout the day and night, across the Tongue of the Ocean at night and through Nassau harbor early the next morning. We would still need to cross the Yellow Banks, a shallower sea with large coral heads east of Nassau to reach the Exumas by afternoon the 2nd day. In order to time our arrival at Nassau during daylight, we left a little later in the morning, which also happened to be low tide. Since we didn’t want to go aground (again), Cathy sat on the bow and watched the water, giving Dave her read on how to maneuver around the shoal at the entrance to Bimini harbor. She quickly re-joined him in the cockpit as we cleared it, since we were almost immediately in the Gulf Stream. With north winds, the seas built quickly, but we had only 5 miles to go before heading back onto the banks and out of the deeper water. We successfully sailed most of the day until dark, when we fired up the engine to motorsail across the rest of the banks. As the wind shifted overnight, we finally had to furl the sail, the angle being too close even to motorsail. After passing out the east side of Nassau harbor, we raised the sails again, having made a decision based on wind angle to go to Shroud Cay, instead of Allens Cay. This allowed us to sail until just before entering the anchorage about a half-hour before sunset. Not a bad run.
In addition to Marianna, we traveled with 3 other boats: Symmetry, Inspiration, and Wild Iris. Wild Iris traveled at a slower pace, so left earlier than we did, but gave us a report on the channel and the seas before we left. Inspiration needed to make their way to the Abacos, so they stopped in Nassau to position themselves for the next leg north. Symmetry was running about an hour behind us, so they decided to head for Norman’s Cay, which would get them in before sunset. So, it was just Orion and Marianna pulling into Shroud Cay at the end of the 2nd day.
The weather was warmer this year than during our visit last year, so we did more swimming and snorkeling – first in the mangrove creeks at Shroud and then in the South Anchorage on the east side of Warderick Wells, protected by Hog Cay from Exuma Sound. They were both delightful, but the snorkeling and sandy beach at “Capture Beach” on Warderick Wells was the best. But some things were a pleasant repeat of last year. We made another trek up Boo Boo Hill behind the park headquarters on Warderick Wells and fed the banaquits. And once again, we met up with Val and Graham on Bonnie Lass, who had arrived the day before. They joined us on Orion for frozen drinks which made for a great reunion.
Black Point sits on the northern tip of Great Guana Cay in the Exumas. (Not to be confused with Great Guana Cay in the Abacos. Must be like Mill Creek in the Chesapeake.) We decided to make a stop here for the first time on Monday Feb. 8, after beating down the Banks from Warderick Wells for several hours. We arrived mid-afternoon to drop the anchor, where we joined about 30 other boats in this large harbor. The next morning we loaded up people, trash, laundry and a computer into the dinghy and rode into the Rockside Inn dinghy dock to take advantage of the short walk to the Laundromat. While Cathy did laundry, Dave checked the internet, picked up a coconut bread order, and then got roped into some work. Tom and Cathie on Interlude were in the harbor with Blessed Spirit. In the process of delivering supplies to the school in the settlement, they were contacted by a teacher who needed help with his computer. Dave helped him set up a dial-up internet connection, and talked with the principal about establishing a wireless network from the school that all the teachers could use. (The teachers are housed near the school.) She was eager to pursue this as a better solution.
With the forecasted fronts coming through every other day, we decided it was time to move on from Georgetown. We headed 12 miles north to a re-opened Marina at Emerald Bay. At $20/night, it was cheap as a mooring ball, but had free laundry, wi-fi, and showers on their “no services” dock, plus access to a gorgeous clubhouse, with TV and lots of places to lounge or plug-in and do internet. Wow! It is pretty far away from any settlement on land, but there is a well-stocked grocery store a short walk away, with free shuttle if you prefer. The only thing missing seemed to be propane re-fill. While Cathy was musing how we might find a way to do that, a propane truck drove into the driveway and Dave ran back to the boat to bring the tank for re-filling. Cathy’s thinking of what to ask for next.
Our biggest concern about planning so long a run from Bimini to the Exumas was the potential for an overwhelming amount of water coming in through the rudder, as had happened on the trip from Vero Beach down the coast of Florida. Luckily this wasn’t the case. We did get some water in during our motoring legs, but this was a manageable amount. And while we sailed the rudder stayed dry. We did discover that the check valve in the line between the bilge pump on the thru-hull was doing its job a little too well, since we couldn’t get the little amount of water in the well past it. So, while in Georgetown, Dave changed the angle of the hose so the valve would be open for the aft bilge pump to pump out.
One unpleasant surprise of our trip out of Bimini was when, after only a short time underway, the tachometer stopped working. After several hours of travel, Dave was finally able to fix it by adjusting the leads to the sensor. Since we use this to monitor our fuel consumption, this was a relief.
As if we didn’t have enough problems with water in unusual places, Dave discovered water under the engine after our beat into the wind between Warderick Wells and Black Point. As he traced the leak, it became clear that it was coming from the raw water pump. However, since we had a new one on board in our spares, this was a simple fix to install the new one. And since the switch, no more water under the engine.
Some good news this year is that our batteries are retaining their charge and voltage much better than last year. While at Emerald Bay, although we didn't have power on the docks, we used the time to run the generator to charge them well.
So our general direction from here is north, through the Exumas and then to the Abacos by mid-March. We hope to spend more time at some of the Exuma islands we haven’t visited yet before making the jump across to the northern Bahamas. The water is still emerald green and warmer every day.