An early 0730 departure from Georgetown for the 50 nm return to Staniel Cay put us northbound on the sound with a following sea of about 4 ft and winds that were building during our run. We started out at about 12 kts of wind out of the SW and they increased through about 19 kts as we headed north. Fortunately, we had a following sea, and the ride was much more comfortable than the run south a few days previous! But no seasickness, perhaps some help from early administration of Stugeron! Fishing was dead until after noon, when we hooked a big mahi, the largest we landed this season. A good fighter, it took some time to bring the fish in since it twice reversed direction before we got a chance to bring it aboard. Dave (our resident fish monger) did the honors of skinning after observing the captain’s fileting technique, and estimated we yielded better than six pounds of filets! Fresh fish again!
Because of the approaching front with winds predicted to be out of the SW, we headed to a spot locally known as “between the Majors”, offering protection from the winds and the resultant wave action that would make anchoring untenable in the more popular locations. Our first experience in this location, we made a direct approach from the cut just a short distance to the north of Staniel and anchored in good holding off the channel in about 9 ft. Celebrate had already moved to a protected spot just to the north, and were expecting us. Joyce had graciously prepared a meal for all of us knowing we would be spending the day moving north. We enjoyed a wonderful meal and evening of conversation aboard Celebrate, and as the evening drew to a close, our departure was accented with the unfamiliar flash of distant lightning and rumble of thunder! A sure confirmation that the predictions were spot on! We headed back to the mother ship in the pitch dark as the rain began to come, our way lighted by the spotlight we added to the dink arsenal prior to departing this fall! Handy item!
The rains came! With a vengeance! More rain than we’ve seen in all the time we’ve spent in the Bahamas! It stormed all night,the sound of the rain pelting the decks continued on and off into the morning. The salt spray we had accumulated during the past week’s ocean travel was nowhere to be found! A side benefit of a very thorough washdown, no effort required! The rain continued into Sunday morning, flight day. The trip to the airport would prove to be a wet one! With Lisa and Dave’s flight scheduled to depart at 9:30 AM, the dinghy trip happened to coincide with a lull in the downpour, only to strengthen to a full deluge as we started to head off! Power was off on the island, and things seemed to be in slow motion at the yacht club. Check in for departing flights is supposed to be at the yacht club an hour before flight, and several passengers gathered in the darkened bar, awaiting the disposition of the flight. One of the staff was finally able to reach the pilot by cell phone, where the plane was holding on Andros, and planning to complete the leg to Staniel as soon as the cover lifted enough to allow flight. “Don’t worry,” she assured, “they won’t leave without you!” After about a 45 minute wait, a van showed up, a plane was heard approaching, we said our goodbyes, and all the passengers were bundled off to the airport, luggage following in a golf cart. Bahamas travel is a little different!
We spent the rest of the morning watching the rains come and go, and finally received a text that our guests arrived in Florida in time to make their airline connection north. We were so happy to have family aboard to share a short introduction of cruising in the Bahamas! Sister Jeri would stay another few days to fill our her planned two week stay.
With winds now strongly out of the west, we decided to remain between the Majors for the remainder of Jeri’s stay, and explore the surrounding area by dinghy. By Tuesday, winds abated enough to make dinghy travel an option, although temps were hanging in the low 70′s. Our original intention of doing some more snorkeling lost some steam with a few overcast and cool-ish days.
A trip to the marina Monday was met with wild conditions, as the strong west winds blew waves up to 4 ft into the marina. Staniel requires all vessels to vacate the docks when a front brings strong west winds, since conditions become untenable if not downright treacherous in the marina. The location affords no protection from westerly winds which can build tremendous sea state blowing across the miles of bank water to the west. Waves come crashing onto the bulkheads and piers, but the dinghy landing area has a substantial breakwater enabling dinghy landing on the shore, but threading the narrow opening of the breakwater can be eye-opening! We braved the rough water and made it ashore without incident, however the trip was not without some trepidation since the outboard had become unreliable over the past few days. For some reason, the carburetor jets had become blocked with gunk several times, requiring a tear-down of the carburetor to clear the jets. As luck would have it, our departure from the dinghy landing was highlighted by the sudden bwauughh…. as the outboard shut down. Efforts to re-start the motor failed as we bobbed in 4 ft waves toward the rocks of the breakwater. Uh-oh! Fortunately, the breakwater is formed from huge blocks of limestone, and it was a fairly easy maneuver to push off the rocks and guide ourselves back into the basin, where we pulled the dink back ashore. Anticipating a recurrence of the carburetor problem, I had put together a tool bag containing the tools required to make the fix. Again, we reinforce the notion that cruising is repairing the boat in exotic places, as a carburetor rebuild was completed on the bulkhead by the dinghy landing beach! It seems that we may have picked up some questionable fuel in Georgetown since the problems started just after refilling the tank. Given the conditions, there was incentive to make this fix work, so extra effort went into flushing the fuel line and adding some Pri-G to the tank. It did the trick and the outboard has been running fine since. Appropriately, I believe a carb kit will become standard equipment on the dink!
We returned to the calm of the anchorage, and as the rains and wind abated, we noticed an addition to the fleet there, with the arrival of Amazing Grace, a local boat. Amazing Grace is a steel-hulled salvage vessel, about 70 ft, and anchored a few hundred yards away. Later in the evening, smaller boats arrived towing sailing sloops headed for the Regatta at Georgetown. One of the sloops was Tida Wave, the local sloop that has the reputation of winning at Regatta every year. They were anchoring there to stage for an early departure for Georgetown with the two sloops in tow. We learned later that Staniel Cay becomes a ghost town during Regatta, as most of the younger men head to Georgetown to compete or support their local team. The evening’s activities were highlighted by a nearby sailboat, as a female voice came on the VHF near 11 PM hailing Amazing Grace, insisting that they were dragging anchor into the sailboat. This insistent boater persisted with the assertions that they were dragging, and no amount of assurance would assuage her ever-increasing whining. She did not identify the name of her vessel, but insisted that someone do something to coerce Amazing Grace into moving, which did not happen. As it was, the shrieking madam’s discomfort stemmed from the fact that Amazing Grace had deployed a stern anchor which held them at an angle different from the rest of the boats in the anchorage. No one else, save one nagging school marm aboard a single sailing vessel voiced any concern. As the dialog progressed, or deteriorated, depending on one’s point of view, several other boaters added their input to the mix, mostly directed at the whining sailor along the lines of “go to bed, lady” to “the rule of gross tonnage applies- MOVE”. She finally relented as Amazing Gracequietly adjusted their stern anchor to bring the boat into alignment with the rest of the anchored vessels. To their credit, they remained courteous throughout the exchange, and were gone by daybreak the following morning. The exchange was if nothing else, entertaining! We did note the name of the complaining vessel, and will be sure to give that particular boat a very wide berth if we encounter them in an anchorage!