Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Long Island to Mayaguana Exumas, Bahamas March 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011
After some assist from the marina office and some creative faxing, I was finally able to get all our insurance paperwork back to the insurer, including FAXING the check, which they can deposit.  Amazing.

Scrambling, Andy & I pulled out of the marina at 11:00 am, headed for Landrail Point on Crooked Island, an easy half day or so trip.  No fishing today or probably any other day right now.  Our freezers are topped off now with the fresh fish (tuna, dolphin) given to us by two of the big time sport fishermen at Flying Fish Marina - a huge treat....fish for certain.  My fishing gets us Not Much.

Bird Rock Lighthouse in the Atlantic Ocean
Crossing the Crooked Island Passage from Long Island to Crooked Island was uneventful, seeing only one boat and no wildlife until we spotted the Bird Rock Lighthouse at the tip of the island.  It looks beautiful, sitting in the middle of a reef, with water splashing about, but it does not work!  Built in 1876 from stone quarried right on that island and its mechanism & ‘museum quality’ Fresnel lenses made it a ‘triumph of construction’.  Unbelievably, when the lighthouse was modernized with electricity, those priceless lenses and the rest of the mechanisms were just torn down and dumped!  The Hope Town lighthouse in the Abacos which we visited two years ago looks much like this one is still working, run by hand, and has the same Fresnel lenses that this island trashed.  

Amazing, we came into Landrail Point from thousands of feet deep water to nearly to the beach before getting to a depth where we could drop the hook.  Dropping the hook in 20’ of water into sand and playing out 150’ of chain, (the most we have ever had to put out & this is settled weather) we crashed early.

We have two more Passages to cross before getting to the Turks & Caicos:  Mayaguana Passage and then the Caicos Passage.  All three of these (includes the Crooked Island Passage) are called the West Indian Passages and are ancient deep-water channels that slant in from the Atlantic Ocean.    Storms from far out in the Atlantic can create swells and high seas, surprising one if not careful.  So far, so good for us!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Our crossing today from Landrail Point on Crooked Island across the Mayaguana Passage to the deserted Plana Cays was the roughest we’ve had thus far, but certainly not really bad.  We felt as though we were riding a bucking bull all day, with waves predicted at 3-4’ every 4 seconds on our bow.  In reality, the waves had a much shorter period and the average height was more 4’ +.

Dropping the hook 6 hours later off West Plana’s sandy beach at 22 degrees.39 N by 73 degrees 37.7 W in 18’ of water at 3:30 pm, I began the cleanup.  Picking up and rearranging the cabinets where everything had slid about was easy.  Cleaning up the huge pile of dirt, herbs, rocks from the bottom of my planter that slid off our aft table and picking up broken glass from the solar light in the herb container took a lot longer.  I’d forgotten to move it to the lower deck off the table.  Conserving our fresh water, I hauled up bucket after bucket of sea water, sloshing it across the deck in an attempt to get rid of the residual dirt.  After I lost the bucket to the Atlantic Ocean when my fancy knot failed on my line, Andy took over with another bucket & line until we finally had a clean deck.   I considered for a moment jumping in after the bucket, but given the strong current, decided not to and couldn’t get the net to it in time to capture the bucket before it was gone, floating on top of the water far away. 

After spending the remainder of the day re-reading, discussing and  planning our next leg to the Turks & Caicos, including potential sight seeing options, fixing dinner and catching the green flash at sunset, we hit the bed about 9:30.  Although tired from holding on all day as we bucked our way to the anchorage and from the big swells that continued to rock us rather badly at the anchorage, neither of us slept well.  At times, I wished I had a strap holding me in the bed, we would roll so badly. The guidebook did say “expect to roll”....no kidding.

Wandering the deck at 2:00 AM, with no moon, I was struck by the brilliant stars in the sky, hanging low, looking like they were touching the ocean....the effect of being so far south.    The anchor alarm sounded at 3:00 AM, rousting both of us to check again our position.  As the tide went down during the night, I was hearing louder and louder the sound of the surf breaking on the newly exposed rocks along the beach, making me even more concerned about our holding.  Nothing wrong, just that we’d moved about the anchor so many times we’d exceeded our GPS tracks...the outline of each time the anchor chain moved.  The GPS system must get overloaded, finally frantically beeping out in total confusion!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pulling anchor this morning was as frustrating as it was yesterday at Landrail Point with the same difficulty.  Once I had only about 25’ left to pull up, the chain would quit going around the winch, pile up on deck before I noticed and then free fall back into the water.   In both anchorages over the past two days, I’d dropped 150’ of chain  - a first for us to play out so much.  Somehow, the chain is not piling up properly in the anchor well.   Andy had to go below to rearrange the chain in the well making room for the remainder to feed in properly.  We’ll see what we can do to fix the problem permanently after we play out the 150’ again...we’ll look at what’s under that 150’ we just played out and how we might rearrange the chain and line that is left in the anchor well.  Remember, we added 100’ of line to the 200’ of chain we had before we headed out on this Caribbean trip as waters are deeper there than we’ve experienced thus far.  That additional line is creating our problem.

The ice maker on the aft deck gave up all attempts to make ice for some reason a couple of days ago.  Now that we are truly in the Tropics, we are feeling the heat and missing our cold drinks.    Andy worked on it a couple of times  over the past month when the machine would drop a lot of water and then freeze it all into a block, gluing down the plastic ice holder box to the machine.  I feel like a sailor now - no ice.  Bah, another piece of equipment that doesn’t live up to the life expectancy of such expensive equipment...used less than 3 years and needs to be replaced.  My blood pressure is again on the rise!

Coming into Betsy Bay @ Mayaguana Cay
Our cruise today of 40 something nautical miles across the Mayaguana Passage from West Plana Cay to where we dropped the hook at Betsy Bay, Mayaguana, wasn’t bad at all - normal ocean rocking and rolling with waves less than two feet, spaced well apart.  Stopping here allows for two short cruising days, rather than one LONG 90+ miles day (from Plana Cays) to get to the Turks & Caicos.  This low lying, 24 nautical mile long island was once part of the U.S. tracking missile system, which is now all in ruins, including an 11,000 foot runway and a Navy dock.  We picked our way in, careful to drop the hook in sand, away from grass and coral.  Backing down on it, our Rocnar bumped along the bottom, making a racket on deck, scaring me, until it grabbed hold and the boat stopped with a jerk.  That was a new first also for us.  Must have dropped the anchor in sand over rock and it could not dig in at first.   

Hearing a splash or two, I took the flashlight on deck, shining it into the water about 9:30 PM.  What a sight!  Huge fish swimming about, with eyes glowing as the light caught them and swarms of jellyfish everywhere.....a type I’d never seen before.  The jellyfish had a body about as round as a quarter and as deep as an inch or two, then all the jellyfish tentacles flowing down about 8”.  The light made them sparkle.  To my amazement, when I turned OFF the flashlight, the jellyfish stayed illuminated, creating ever so many bright lights in the water!  The fish eyes also seems to stay lit - a red color almost.  Then it would all go away until I turned the light back on and off the sea creatures creating that strange illumination yet again.  We were, remember, way out in the Atlantic Ocean, with just this little dot of an island providing enough shallow water (20’) that we could anchor in for shelter.  Another reminder as to why I don’t like to get in the water at night!!

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