March 27 - March 31, 2007: From Grand Bahama Island to Great Sale Cay, Manjack Cay, and Treasure Cay
We finally left Old Bahama Bay Marina on Tuesday morning, March 27, at 0745 and arrived at the anchorage of Great Sale Cay around 1630. There were about 10 or so boats anchored already, two or three arriving not much after us. Everybody was nicely spread out and quiet. It was rather beautiful - our first anchorage on this trip since we left Montauk on June 2nd, 2005, and it felt very good.
The water was not as green and clear as we had hoped but there were also lots of clouds which might have added to this effect. Therefore, I took no pictures that night nor the next morning.
March 28 We intended to go "only" 46 or so nm today to get to Spanish Cay which also has a new marina. Therefore, we played Backgammon for a while and then leisurely left around 0930. Of course, the wind was right on our nose, just like yesterday - the result: we had to motor yet again. We watched our progress on Juergen's plotter which, in combination with our GPS, worked very nicely and showed us easily whether or not we were right on course. There was quite some currents on part of this specific voyage, so that we had to adjust course by as much as 10 degrees.
After we "rounded" the Center of the World Rock, yes that is what it is called, I tried to call Spanish Cay Marina to ensure a berth for the night - I had mentioned that we were a sailing vessel, and I believe that this was the reason that we did not receive any answer. I called repeatedly on Channel 16, as is customary, and many other motor boats did, for us to no avail. So, we quickly changed our mind, checked out where else we could go within a reasonable time and get in without the need for high tide or so and determined that Manjack Cay was the spot, a nice anchorage, not much further than Spanish Cay - only about 10 nm -, easy access and sufficiently deep water. By 1800 we were already safely anchored and sat in the cockpit, enjoying the incredible scenery. Day two anchoring! We were in seventh heaven. The sunset was just gorgeous - see the pictures I took...
March 29 This morning, we listened to the Cruisers Net for the first time, at 0815 sharp. We were informed of wind and weather conditions, predictions for the next few days, passage conditions, including that of Whale Cay which seems to be a relatively dangerous spot with one tanker faultering and a cruise ship that used the Northern part of Great Guana Cay as a "Treasure Island Destination" gave up this route due to lack of consistency of access. The waves from the Atlantic seem to build dramatically there, even in fairly low wind conditions, making passage difficult and dangerous. All seemed well this morning.
After breakfast, we debated whether or not to leave here. Afterall, we had not seen anything yet and it is a beautiful spot. We did the navigation all the way to Treasure Cay, another beautiful spot past the infamous Whale Cay passage - all to decide in the end that we would stay here at least until tomorrow. So, Juergen is getting the dinghy ready for us to be able to explore the surroundings. A few other boats already arrived (no just about noon) for the day as they also went exploring with their dinghies.
March 30 Well, the weather forecast was not too favorable, and the indications for motoring through the Whale Cay passage were anything but nice. So we decided to stay here for yet another day. It even rained for a while this morning, but now (1300), the sun is shining. It is breezy, not too bad for a great day of sailing in deep water but most everybody stayed here today. A number of boats reset their anchors. So did we. It seemed that they were not holding perfectly. We still are not totally satisfied and will most likely reset our anchor one more time. While the bottom is soft, we still prefer to sit exactly were we intended to and not start moving around in the bay. The added benefit, if we reset anchor one more time, is that, hopefully, our internet connection improves. Here, it is non-existent.
We spent the day lazy, playing Backgammon for a real long time - in the end I lost again though I gave Juergen a run for his money (or mine). We took a little dinghy tour, but because of the wind, the waves started to pick up even in this bay, and before we would get drenched, we decided to return to Impromptu which, by the way, has been repositioned again. This time, we are a lot closer to the beach and in direct airwave contact with the internet antenna, except, the signal is as bad as it was this morning when we were anchored much further away. I for sure hope that it improves over time so that we can upload the site and make a few SKYPE calls.
There is not much socializing here, just four boats seem to have any contact with each other, and most of the other boaters seem to favor sitting down below. Nobody is visible in the cockpit, but us who prefer to be outside and enjoy the scenery, have lunch up here (a mixed salad only today), and play Backgammon here or read.
Tomorrow morning, we will listen to the Cruisers' Net again to see whether the Whale Cay Passage is passable. We for sure would like it to be, firstly to continue our voyage, and secondly, to meet up with Byron and family on Sunday. The good thing is, we are only about 30 nm away from Marsh Harbor / Boat Harbor. Therefore, even if we only left on Sunday morning, we could be there in the early afternoon. Byron and family will be busy taking possession of the boat, provisioning, getting the family settled in a somewhat unusual environment (at least for the two boys, Drew (10) and Ayden (7). Ariel is used to being on a sailboat as she has been sailing with Byron a lot when he still had his sloop which, by now, has been virtually traded in against a private plane. This is also how Byron, Amy and the two boys will get here. Ariel, who is coming from Miami, will arrive on a commercial jetliner. Let's hope that it all will work out and that everyone will have a wonderful time.
March 31 We had a rather miserable night because our anchor had dragged more than I felt was comfortable. By 0300 or so, I finally got Juergen to get up and reset the anchor with me. By the time all was done - the moon - almost full - had been nicely lighting the night for us, it was 0330, and we went back to bed. I checked two or three more times to ensure that we were not dragging again. For some funny reason, this time the anchor held, and we finally got a few hours of sleep before we listened to the Cruisers' Net at 0815. We were interested in the report on the Whale Cay Passage. The winds were supposed to be between 20 and 25 knots, someone had gone through the passage around high tide, i.e., just about 0800, and reported big rollers, waves 5-6 feet, not great but "doable". The weather forecast was not any better for tomorrow, so we decided to give it a try.
After breakfast, we got the boat ready, put everything away that could fall and went on our way. Well, I must confess that I made a huge navigational error, not in the coordinates per se but in accidentally inputting into our GPS "East" instead of "West". Well, you can imagine that the compass course was totally off, right in the most treacherous part of today's passage. Thank God Juergen found the error, corrected it, and we were again comfortably moving ahead. The waves were steep, rising to over 8 ft at times, some breaking, but it was not scary, just a little bumpy, and Juergen made sure via his chart plotter, that we stayed on the "road" at all times.
It did not take very long and we were through the passage, this time with huge following seas which pushed our bow in all directions. Of course, Charlie, our auto pilot, adjusted promptly. I called Treasure Cay Marina to ensure that we would have a slip for the night. They told me to call back once in the harbor. Juergen asked that I ready our docking lines. In the process, we ran aground, once, twice, softly - thank God the bottom consists of mostly sand. Then we were stuck. It was low tide, and a spring tide in addition. This means that the low water is lower than "normal" and the high water is higher than "normal". I suggested that we anchor and just wait for an hour or two before continuing. Juergen was determined to get into the harbor. He revved up the engine, moved this way and that way, for at least 15 - 20 minutes before we were finally back in deeper (not deep) water. A large motor yacht had entered just before us. They are lucky with having virtually no draft, at least compared to us.
Even in the channel, we hit bottom a few times - thank God Juergen drove very slowly. We were glad when we finally reached deeper water again, were assigned our slip and tied up within just a few minutes. We readied all our fenders - fixed docks and pilings are not great for normal fender set up, but by now we know how to help ourselves. Then Juergen briefly washed off the salt of the boat, cleaned out the dinghy which had taken on some engine water as we were trying to get free outside of the harbor. We registered our boat, paid for the night, even got the code for WIFI - so, hopefully, I can upload the website later on. The marina office recommended a beachside restaurant which is where we went to have two Goombay Smash drinks each and a Grouper Burger (the French Fries were really wonderful, and the tartar sauce unbelievably delicious with the French Fries - we asked for seconds (of the tartar sauce, not the French Fries).
Juergen is trying to fix the fully corroded navigation light on the bow of our boat - last night during our reanchoring exercise he noticed that it was no longer working - we had checked it in Fort Lauderdale where it was working perfectly. However, meanwhile, we have taken on tons of sea water. No wonder, things corrode...
Juergen promised me to go back to the restaurant and the beach for taking pictures as this beach is reputed - by National Geographic - to be one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world. The view is gorgeous, the sand like flour, the palm trees are waving in the wind, and the beach huts look adorable and, something ticks off most Europeans, the beaches are empty. See for yourself - in the Gallery.
Something I keep forgetting to report but I believe is of interest at least for some of you. We have seen lots of flying fish the day we left West End (Old Bahama Bay Marina) to go to Great Sale Cay, and there was one lone dolphin playing with our bow for a brief while as well - beautiful to see, unfortunately to camera shy to photograph or videotape. So, you will just have to take my word for it. In terms of wildlife, we have not seen much else, a few cormorants, a couple of seagulls, much smaller than the ones we are used to seeing on the US East Coast "up North" where we normally sail and two or three larger birds, not identifiable for us. There were also a few sea hawks - beautiful to watch - still in West End.
We are planning to speak with Christa today - did not reach her last night. We think she went out to dinner with Alexander who is visiting for the weekend - and to Byron, just to double check that his plans have not changed, because his plans will determine whether or not we will depart here tomorrow morning at high tide (around 1030/1100). If he and his family are not coming tomorrow, we will stay here for another day, walking around, sightseeing, etc. Otherwise, we will move over to Boat Harbor, near Marsh Harbor, about 16 or so nm away from here - through shallow waters..., i.e., we will have to be quite careful. You will read all about it.