But we’re not going for speed. In a little less than 24 hours nonstop we transited from Georgetown, Exumas 99 miles to Green Cay, a small island in the middle of nowhere. After a few hours on the beach and snorkeling we continued 28 miles to the South Bight of Andros island.
We departed Georgetown at 0715 after listening to the weather report on our SSB receiver. The wind was still blowing a steady 15 knots from the SE, but it was the first weather window we’d seen in weeks. And it was forecasted even lighter over the following days. We headed out of the harbor with four large catamarans and one monohull.
Our route was conservative: Travel 15 miles offshore (3 hours) from Georgetown, Exumas to Square Cay Cut and then stay in the protected waters inside the banks and “south-side” Barreterre of the Exumas. This led us through some shallow areas on our chart, but it was high tide and we never saw less than 6 feet.
One “shallow” area on the chart through Pudding Cut by Brigantine Cays was actually 12 ft deep and we passed a local cargo ship using the route. Inside the banks the weather was much calmer. It was less physically exhausting to have Velocir’s motion decreased.
Still too much motion to sleep through. We took 3 hour watches and used the NAVIK windvane to steer the entire way (except the shallows of Pudding Cut). This gave us the ability to adjust sails, do navigation and get snacks down below without calling up one another for help.
We sailed through the night, using jack-lines (heavy duty webbing that runs around the deck) clipped in to our harnesses and life jackets for safety. At 0537 the next day we arrived at Green Cay. The westward anchorage (protected from the weather) is navigable at dark with no hazards according to the chart. We had never seen it ourselves though, so we were hoping it was as good as it seemed. Using our spotlight at night, Grant stood on the bow and did a peripheral search on our way in. Amelia watched the GPS and depth sounder to make sure they matched up. Everything seemed right so we dropped the anchor and went to sleep.
The next morning we awoke to a little more swell coming around the island and tossing Velocir about. Velocir was anchored in a fine spot- the GPS, paper charts, depth sounder and spotlight had served us well. We got the dinghy, Raptor, in the water and headed over to the island to explore.
Ashore, the only signs of life were some goats making sounds in the distance. We walked the rocky beach and then went snorkeling.
There were yellow sea fans called “Venus Sea Fan” that we had not seen before and many many fish.
After about 20 minutes in the water, Amelia looked out into the deeper water and spotted a reef shark swimming towards her. Grant was about 20 feet away so she yelled to him and swam towards the dinghy (which was close-by). The shark was curious about Grant and got within 15 feet of him, so Grant waved his spear at it, and it started to swim away. That was a clear wrap-up to snorkeling, so we hauled up the anchor and set our course for the South Bight of Andros Island (29 miles).
Andros is three islands with large rivers running through them. It has one of the largest barrier reefs in the world (good fishing!) and bone fishing in the bights. It also runs along the Tongue of the Ocean, where just outside the reef there is literally a wall that plunges down thousands of feet, but inside the reef is very shallow. This shallow wide-open landscape makes it only navigable in fair weather for cruising boats. When entering South Bight, it was much larger and open to the weather than we realized.
Because of this ocean wall is so close to shore, Andros is home to AUTEC. AUTEC is a US military establishment that had about four bases on the island (now only two). As we have learned, they test submarines and sonar. South Bight, our first stop in Andros is home to one of the abandoned sights. It is located on Golding Island at the entrance to South Bight.
(Note to Cruisers: (pictured above) There is an extremely well-marked deep water entrance to their deserted basin and concrete pier, protected from E-S. We did not try it but would recommend and spoke with a former employee who said it would be a great spot.)
Now, the AUTEC site is home to sheep (that should be sheared) and the buildings have been gutted. Such a large facility abandoned last year. There were still horse shoes in the sand pit.
One item we saw was this sono-bouy. According to its writing it contains a lithium battery and other chemicals. We found a few of these on the island and have seen many washed up on beaches throughout our trip. Nice to finally figure out what they are.
Next, we visited the small settlement of Driggs Hill. It had seen better days. We saw about four men walking around and three children playing outside. There was a huge gas station and government dock with no activity. Homes looked abandoned. We didn’t linger. (The three islands of Andros are not connected and the North side is more inhabited.)
After such a long journey we are very exhausted. We didn’t catch any fish and are not anywhere protected enough to spend much time, so we will continue north up the island.
And, if this blog post isn’t long enough for you, here is a video about baking pizza on the boat:
It has been over a month since we arrived in Georgetown and we are ready for some new adventures. But the weather has not been cooperating. Staying here another week, we spotted a sailboat with an OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) flag and went over to talk with them. They were a great resource telling us about a trail map of the island and where to find it!
We procured this map from a couple on Eleanor M. He keeps the trails maintained, made this map and builds new trails every so often. It was very exciting to have this guide to explore Stocking Island with.
He said we were free to share the map. One of the things about Georgetown is that even though there is a community net every morning on the radio, you will not find out about most things that go on unless you socialize a lot. (a struggle for us)
The back side of our map alerts us to conservation pointers. We didn’t know starfish could get sunburned and die so easily!
We started out by the Casuarinas, a non-native species that is now plentiful in the Bahamas. They are known by their sharp acorn-like seeds that people (especially kids), enjoy throwing at each other. Today they are an important part of many islands, staving off erosion because de-foresting in the early years of settlement caused many native trees to become extinct (according to a local and the internet).
Palm trees are another large tree we see a lot. The path to the ocean-side took us a little bit to find but was a nice trail.
After we reached the ocean the paths became over-grown. Using the map we could just make out the way down to the rocks below. The waves were crashing in and we were glad Velocir was not out there today!
A sand treasure.
Instead of the usual sharp coral formations, this coastline was covered in Pleistocene and Holocene Rhizomorphs (meaning root structures), which as far as we can tell means calcified root systems ten-thousand years ago.
Then we took off the carburetor but that looked great too. Finally we decided that there may be too much oil in the fuel mixture. See, we usually keep a mixture in a small tank and fill the motor with it. We think maybe too much oil has been mixed in because we don’t always empty it all the way before adding a new mixture. It’s all we can come up with for now and will wait and see if it helps. Meanwhile, it is still dependable enough and always starts up again.
Grant staying handsome with his clippers plugged into the inverter.
We ended the evening with some steak, adding potatoes with spinach and onions. Garnished with some Minneolas. Canned food will come again as soon as we leave this area.
And another achievement: after two weeks of waiting for propane it was finally available again in Georgetown. Grant waited two hours and was at the front of the line this morning when the propane truck came. Over 50 propane tanks were sitting in a neat little row, waiting. Now we can continue to enjoy warm meals!
By this weekend the weather should clear and we will head north to Andros and the Berrys (weather permitting) on our way back to the United States. After much agonizing about wanting to go farther south we chose the safer option for hurricane season. It was clear in the end- Velocir is our home, so she comes first. Don’t worry, we’ve planned a fun summer for ourselves sailing tall ships, visiting family and camping throughout CA before we head south again next fall! And with the weather being so unusual this winter, staying out of hurricane territory is probably for the best.
Some videos to enjoy:
Hi All, we have been on blog hiatus for a while visiting family and friends but are now back to share Velocir’s voyage. Velocir has been lonely the past couple of weeks. Amelia went to sail with family in the BVIs while Grant stayed onboard for a week long of heavy weather (note to self: take down flags when wind is 40 knots for days). However, an interesting tidbit is that we’ve noticed cruisers will leave their flags up until only inches of the fabric is remaining. We think it is a status thing: My boat has been in the Bahamas SOO long my flag is a piece of string.
We stayed at Regatta Point (in the background) and really loved the location. Velocir was in sight of our room, which was great. We could see her rolling around in the gentle chop and smiled, thinking “yay, a week on land in a real bed that doesn’t move!” We enjoyed on demand hot water showers, a sleeping in a normal rectangle shaped bed, and marveled at life with refrigeration and counter-space.
Luck was with us and we had beautiful weather to explore the town and islands all through the week.
We spent some time on the boat doing a little sailing, exploring, and motoring through the cruising fleet.
We went sailing on Velocir around Elizabeth Harbor.
We watched the Bahamian sloops sail. Like the Log Canoes of the Chesapeake, these craft have a shallow draft and huge sail plans, crew will climb out on the board you see in the photo to balance the windward side. This day the boats had their small main sail alone as it was blowing near 20 kts, but normally they have a large, distinctive mini gaff on the top of the main sail. A striking similarity has been noted between this sail design and modern racing boat’s flat top mainsail designs. The Family Islands Regatta is in a few weeks, we have heard it is a riot and wish we could be here for it.
We walked the many beaches, hiked up to the monument and around the hills of Stocking Island. We also recently got a map from a cruiser who keeps up the trails on Stocking Island, man there are a lot of trails to beaches, vistas and through the trees and scrub.
Grant went spearfishing out on the reef, but no dinner! He saw yet another small (we think) bull shark, but as usual they are more interested in cruising the reef than chomping on neoprene.
We snorkeled a blue hole full of fish. Though not marked on our explorer charters, we heard of an underwater cave entrance in the mooring filled hurricane holes of Stocking Island. Here we found a bunch of different fish as well as sunken inboard and outboard engines. Grant’s Mom even spotted a Bearded Fireworm out at the reef!
We checked out the local shops and bought a fish identification book—these are Atlantic Spadefish. They are 14-16 inches long and supposedly good eating, too bad spearfishing is prohibited here!
We feasted on lobster and organic beef from Uruguay sold at the Driftwood Café, one of our favorite breakfast and lunch spots in Georgetown!
We watched tons of gorgeous sunsets and (whether we wanted to or not) the music from the Heritage Festival in Regatta Park roughly about where the sun is setting.
It was a real treat to share this wonderful area and the cruising lifestyle with our parents and, although we are slightly reluctant to get back on Velocir after being spoiled on land, we are excited for what lies ahead.
The last time Amelia was in Georgetown, Exumas was 1996. Cruising felt like a vacation every day and playing with friends on volleyball beach took up most of her time. Here are some glimpses of how things looked back then, and now 16 years later in 2012.
Still lush and sandy, Amelia’s family brought home a bag from the straw market. Later, we tried our talent at making baskets for Easter.
The market is still there today, only with different designs than her mom’s decorative cloth lady—more colored straw and animal print and many knick knacks for sale too. Amelia picked out a small basket laced with two colors of Androsia fabric (from the Bahamian island of Andros).
The dinghy dock was always soooo crowded! Sometimes it was hard to find a spot. It was fun to climb over dinghies to get to the dock, passing groceries or clean clothes to one another. Sometimes we would count then just to see how many people were in town!
2012- The dock is not as crowded. Instead people spend their time at Stocking Island on the other side of the harbor and just come into town for a few hours to run errands. It has free water so you can fill your jerry cans without even lifting them from your dinghy. Of course, now I have to worry about things like water!
Ice cream and a popular ring game were among my priorities (let’s be honest, ice cream is still up there). My parents would get the groceries from Exuma Market while we played and ate coconut ice cream—my favorite.
2012- no ring game. Now we sit on the benches with a free wifi connection and eat our ice cream. Then we get the groceries ourselves!
Lots of snorkeling from the dinghy!! Tons of beautiful fish everywhere.
2012- There are still some good snorkeling spots inside the harbor, but some places people say not to swim due to years of pollution from boats in the harbor.
A hike through palm trees and scrub to the monument on top of the tallest hill was a fun day activity. Then down the hill to the beach on the ocean-side.
2012- Still a beautiful hike with a breathtaking view of the harbor (if you know where the path starts)! Now, notice my friend on the left wearing a pink regatta t-shirt? Well, cruisers design and vote on the shirts every year. I remember in 1996 your design could only have three colors. Here was the 2012 t-shirt, in pink of course!
Winning or chairing a regatta event earns you a flag. There are many events to be a part of over the two weeks of festivities. It is all organized by the cruisers, mostly those who return year after year. Think of it as a summer camp (or student counci).
2012- The flags are still much coveted. We didn’t get any though!
Sitting in town with our straw purses.
Cruising Regatta Kid’s Game: finding change in the sand. This year I’m not sure what the kid games were like. We competed in the Adult Coconut Challenge (see previous post).
Regatta games. What a fun place to be a kid. Today there are many more resorts and bars built where cruisers used to play. This new atmosphere has slowly grown on us, and just being around so many cruisers you feel part of a community is fun and unique.