Mar 14 to Mar 18, 2012

March 14, 2012

We were up to listen to Chris Parker at 0630hrs this morning and I have to admit it’s a little tougher to get up at 0630hrs when it is still dark. On the bright side, since we are up we can see the sunrise J

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Sunrise in Buena Vista Cay, Jumentos

It is wonderfully quiet this morning. As the sun slowly rose, the birds began singing their morning song (actual birds!!). There is a slight breeze and the temperature is cool with fluffy clouds dancing across the horizon. Diana is calmly swaying on her anchor and I have to say things are perfect here in the Jumentos. There are no other boats for the first time in the Bahamas.

We had a lazy morning getting organized to get off the boat to explore this little island called Buena Vista Cay. I browsed our cruising guide to see if there was something specific here to see other than its beautiful beach.

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There are some ruins to check out, a salt pond and the curious gentleman living in the half built house we saw yesterday.

As we peered over the side this morning we noticed a great big barracuda floating about the boat. He wasn’t moving very fast and didn’t seem to be too interested in leaving anytime soon. We started the dinghy engine and made lots of noise but he wasn’t going anywhere. Maybe it’s the barracuda Steve caught yesterday waiting to get his revenge…maybe waiting for one of us to get in the water to bite off one of our toes…(I’m never going in the water here!!)

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He is at least three feet long!!!

We left our resident barracuda to its own devices and dinghied to shore to scour the beach for interesting shells. Even though there are no cruisers currently here, there is evidence of them on the beach.

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A patio area with benches, fire pit with kindling and everything…very nice!

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A sundial…can anybody guess what time it is?...it’s 1300hrs

We found a little trail just off the beach which lead to a large salt pond with ruins.

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View of Diana from the salt pond trail

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Silver Buttonwood trees along the trail

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Dense bush along the trail with several large cacti

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Salt pond

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Dried up patch of the salt pond…it may look hard but as my foot discovered it is actually very soft and sticky. I began chose my footing more carefully. Good thing I’m a quick study ;)

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Rather large fenced in area – we aren’t sure what for…

We made our way back to the beach then continued on our way.

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We walked over the point to a set of ruins leading to the house we saw yesterday…

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Ruins

Once over the ridge our presence was announced by a number of barking dogs who alerted their master he had some company. Meet Edward Rowlins:

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Edward Rowlins and Steve

Edward has been living here by himself with a little help from his son. His parents own this land and he has come back to make his life here. He has three dogs which he uses to hunt goat and rats, a number of chickens and some peacocks which he is raising to sell in Nassau.  He is here looking for a quiet life and boy does he get it – other than a few nosey cruisers popping in every now and then ;) He is in the process of building a house, the frame is up and he lives in the bottom part which is covered up. He is visited by the mail boat once a week to deliver his food, building material, plants and whatever else he has ordered. He is pretty much self-sufficient along with the help of a generator (that is currently broken) that powers his VHF radio and refrigerators. He is planting coconut trees and a variety of other things to build up his land. The ruins above are his childhood home. He grew up here and went to school in Duncan Town for 10 years then moved to Nassau. He has lived here full time for last three years. He admits he does go back to Nassau every now and then to do business but only if his son can keep an eye on the place while he is gone. We asked him numerous questions and he showed us around, he even gave us a taste of his favorite drink – Bacardi Gold and Grape Juice. Don’t grimace it was actually pretty good J.

We also asked him if we had to worry too much about the sharks and barracuda. We told him of our little visitor as well. He said “Barracuda are like housecats, don’t really look them in the eye and they will leave you alone but if you corner them, they will attack. Sharks are like dogs and respond to dominance. Always look them in the eye and stand your ground and they will leave you alone.” We will heed his advice carefully.

We thanked him for his hospitality and continued on our walk. We were joined by two of his dogs; a cute little male about 4 months old named Colbourne and an older female called Niami. They were our shadows for the afternoon. It was fun to have a puppy around  J

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Niami, Colbourne and Steve walking the beach

We dropped the dogs off on our way back and Edward let us know of a conch field around the corner where we walked. We went back to get the dinghy to go and check it out.

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Steve snorkeling for conch…he didn’t see any worth keeping…

Over the bank there was another salt pond. This one is pretty big and other than its stinkiness it was quite pretty.

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View of the Salt Pond from above

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Salt pond from below with salt crystals forming along the edge…mud is almost pink

We went back to Diana for much needed rum then Steve went out to try to catch our resident barracuda – who was still hanging out under our boat. Edward said he would take a barracuda if we caught one. 

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He was unsuccessful; in fact we think we could hear the barracuda chuckle as Steve tried to entice him with his lure.

March 15, 2012

We decided this morning to go as far as Raccoon Cay – just another 10 miles from here. We need at least two full days, probably three to get back to Long Island in time to renew our visas so we will not push our luck. The weather looks good but the winds are going to be a little lighter meaning we will not be able to do as many miles per day as we had hoped.

We took off for Raccoon Cay after breakfast around 1030hrs. We motor-sailed the short distance to charge our batteries. The winds are from the ENE around 10knts and having help from the motor made the trip a little quicker.

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Approaching Raccoon Cay

Steve put out his fishing line as we left ‘cause you never know, that mahi-mahi is out there somewhere. He got a big hit as we approached Raccoon Cay. It was another barracuda – an even BIGGER one!!!

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Steve and Mr. Barracuda (I think he deserves to be called Mr. don’t you?)

We anchored in House Bay which as per the guide is the “prettiest of the three anchorages”. It is a long a beach with a few ruins to check out and an old Loyalist salt pond which still has the walled slots for the sluice gates intact. The further south we go the Cays really do get more and more beautiful. I’m not sure if it is the remoteness of them or just the fact there are no other boats or humans around that makes it so, regardless, we anchored and stuffed a backpack full of water then headed out to explore.

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A ruin of a residential home

Conch is such an integral part of Bahamian culture…even the empty shells are embedded in their walls!!

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Conch imbedded in the house walls

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View of beach with dinghy from the ruin

There isn’t a trail system here so Steve and I had to blaze away in search for the Salt Pond. The interesting thing about salt ponds is that you can smell them from far away. We followed our noses through thick bush, colourful flowers and silver buttonwood trees to find it.

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Silver Buttonwood tree

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Fuchsia seed pods with little flowers inside

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Alas the Salt Pond!

I’ve developed quite the fascination with salt ponds especially ones with evidence of the salt trade. Raccoon Cay was a stop for many ships who exported salt from here. This pond is walled off by rocks called sluice gates.

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Now, I haven’t googled this yet but we think this process pools the water to help in the evaporation process that extracts the salt. 

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The white along the edge is all salt – it’s noticeably warm to the touch. Steve tasted it and confirmed it’s really salty ;)

When the sun shines on the pond it reveals a pinky colour to the mud and if it didn’t smell so bad I would say it is quite pretty.

There is thick bush surrounding the pond with a number of rock fences. We thought that perhaps there might be some old ruins back there so hopped the first fence we saw to find out.

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One of many fences in the bush

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Fence in thick bush

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Yet another fence...but what are they fencing in?!?!?

 

 

They never lead anywhere or even hinted as to what they were fencing in...but they were in very thick bush and it was not obvious…although likely pasture fencing.

There are a number of wild goats on this island; we caught a glimpse of them from afar. They are hunted by Ragged Islanders and were very skittish at the sight of us so we could get close enough to take a good picture. This area is a goat’s paradise with lots of leafy trees and hills to climb.

With scratched up shins and arms we ended our investigation with very little answers but fun just the same. We made our way back to the dingy to go for a swim – it seems relatively shark free so I actually went in the water for a quick dip. Steve is braver than I am and donned his snorkel gear to check out a little island where he saw a wooden ship wreck, several rays, sergeant majors and a rather large grouper. I was in the dinghy by this time circling Steve on shark watch – it’s crazy out here!! Fortunately I saw no sharks J

We made our way back to the boat where Steve snorkeled some more while I watched for sharks. It would appear there are no sharks here – maybe I will break out my mask and snorkel tomorrow….yeah right! J

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Diana at anchor

Steve took our flags down today – I think it’s time for some replacements. What do you think? ;)

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Our sad little flags

We got cleaned up and had supper. The extra day light is wonderful!! I can actually catch the sunset. The nights in the Jumentos are spectacular, not just the night sky but the activity in the water is fascinating - lots of phosphorescence. We could actually make out the shape of the fish tonight! We’ve never seen anything like it – glowing specks in the water floating about.

March 16, 2012

Day two in Raccoon Cay J Steve and I don’t really have any plans for this day other than to try to find a blue hole. There are two on this island so we set out to find the one closest to us. We beached the dinghy in a cove nearby…

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Dinghy beached in yet another beautiful place…

We thought the blue hole was located over the ridge towards the back but we searched through thick bush and couldn’t find it. We admitted defeat and headed back to the dinghy to go for a ride when a local fisherman drove up and anchored in the same cove. We went over to introduce ourselves and learned Kennedy Lockhart is a fisherman from the Ragged Islands. He dropped off his cousin about an hour ago at this same place to catch bait for fishing later. He was now coming back to pick him up. Kennedy was kind enough to share some conching advice as he has been a fisherman for many years. He admitted that he doesn’t dive much anymore as he is getting “too old” but still free dives for conch. We shared some of our stories from our visit to the Bahamas so far then we parted ways.

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Kennedy Lockhart looking mighty cool on his fishing boat J

We then went for a dinghy ride to the tip of Raccoon Cay. We stopped twice so Steve could do a little snorkeling while I watched for sharks. We only saw one little one which was no threat. I was very comfortable not getting into the water and instead chose to soak up the sun from the boat.

Once back on Diana, we relaxed some more and had some rum (I know, it’s a rough life…), then Steve decided he was going to clean the bottom of Diana. She has been growing a very thick beard of grass during these past few months. I wanted to keep it to see how long it could grow and perhaps attract some manatees when we are back in their neighborhood but Steve was determined to get it clean. 

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Steve under the boat scrubbing the grass off…

Not much else to report for the rest of the afternoon. We got Diana ready for the trip back to Long Island, had some supper and enjoyed the sunset.

March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patty’s Day!!

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Southern tip of Raccoon Cay in the morning

The winds were stronger than expected today. Winds were predicted to be out of the ENE at 10kts and dropping. Instead we got winds around 15 kts out of the NNE and rising which made our trip north a VERY bumpy ride. I’m sure I heard Steve say “It feels like we are riding a bucking horse”..…well, it sounded like bucking anyway. Yup, a 29 foot fiberglass horse and a wild one at that!! Mix that in with getting splashed in the face every two minutes with salt spray…made for an uncomfortable trip. 

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Squall in the distance that thankfully missed us

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Wet-salt encrusted Manda

We admitted defeat and called it quits around 1500hrs to anchor in Flamingo Cay as we would not have made Water Cay, our intended destination, before dark. We got cleaned up, had a nice hot supper then settled in for a movie on board… In honor of St. Patty’s Day I drank my very last beer…warm…it was not delicious at all but I offered a toast none the less ;) Early to bed.

March 18, 2012

These North East winds are making the anchorages in the Jumentos very rolly at night and it seems my sea legs are not as sturdy as I thought they were as I was up most of the night feeling a little nauseous. I settled on spending most of the night in the cockpit under the stars – the skies out here are big and bright with countless stars!!

There seems to be some active weather rolling around the clouds this morning. Pockets of squalls are all around and we hope to not run into any of them today. We made our way to Water Cay around 0930hrs. The winds still have a more northerly component than we would like but we headed out anyway.

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Rainbow in the distance as seen from the cockpit of Diana in Flamingo Cay

The horse was more of a bucking bronco as Diana pounded into the waves the further we got into the banks. We did get hit with one squall and the high winds popped a fitting off our mast that was securing part of the reef line. It was a nervous moment trying to determine what had broken. The POP sounds like a gunshot and could very well have been something much worse. No worries though, everything else hung tight during the violent and thankfully short lived squall. The fresh water is always welcome as it washed away the thick layer of salt that had already accumulated on my face in the short time we were out. We will be putting up some canvas for tomorrow!!

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The squall that hit us

The 13 mile trip to Water Cay felt endless but by 1300hrs we had arrived and we were picking out an anchorage. It is rolly here as well but hopefully this will be our last night in the Jumentos. We will listen to the weather forecast in the morning and hope for more favorable winds tomorrow.  We do have one extra day to hang back if we need it because we will not get too far tomorrow if the winds are in the same direction as today. Fingers crossed things will relax a little – I will be dreaming of south winds tonight.

We got cleaned up, had some lunch, put up the canvas, topped off our fuel and water with the stores we had on board, Steve inspected the engine as it sounded a little different (all good) and made a plan to put a second reef in the main when the winds settle a bit.

We read, wrote and relaxed for the afternoon while listening to the winds whistle through the rigging.

March 19, 2012

We made a valiant effort to head north this morning but had to turn back. The wind was on the nose at about 15-20knts causing Diana to hammer into the waves with no real option to sail. Steve called it about 3 miles in as the pounding waves were not good for Diana. We headed back to Water Cay to wait for the winds to turn east. We spent the day at rest…well I did anyway. Steve replaced the fitting on the boom and secured our table then he joined me in the prone position with his book.