Little Farmer’s Cay/Great Guana Cay

Once through the cut at Galliot, we continued west and then north around Little Farmer’s Cay. We arrived near Oven Rock around 1530, in plenty of time to find a good anchor spot. Not as easy as we anticipated, we found the bottom in 3 areas too hard to get the anchor to bite, and settled for a spot in Isaac Bay, a bit north of where we originally planned. Still, the anchor would not bury, the bottom still fairly hard. But with settled weather holding, we can live with less than a full bury set. Occasionally, it takes some hunting to find a sandy spot to drop the hook, but with the water as clear as it is here, it’s a matter of hunting a light-colored area that shows a sandy bottom. The water in Georgetown is not clear enough to see the bottom in 10 ft., but on the way here, with the light winds we were able to see variations in the bottom visible in 60 foot depths! Photos simply don’t do justice; watching the bottom go by in 40+ foot depths is just amazing! The spot we finally settled on was crowded, two other boats were anchored about 200 yards off, and since it was getting late, we reasoned that we’d have a better chance of getting a set where other boats were anchored rather than search around for a sandy spot. Our anchoring technique even after 3 years of full-time cruising, is still a work in progress; but as time passes we become more confident in our skills, and more adventurous in our selection of locations. We’re anchoring in locations that two years ago we would never have considered. Experienced cruisers are notable in their choice of spots, very close to shore and in tight locations! Experience is the key that brings confidence.

Little Farmer’s Cay is a small island, less than two miles in length, and about a half mile wide. The Yacht Club was empty, as were the moorings in the channel close to town. Our first stop was at the north end, the location of the Farmer’s Cay Yacht Club marina. Empty! Not abandoned, but empty. Several moorings dotted the harbor and channel, a well-protected spot once you thread your way in. No markers, the water tells the tale. Just off the marina, a local boat was working the waters. We watched as he moved slowly up the channel with a swimmer in tow. The swimmer was equipped with snorkel, mask and large fins, and would drag along about 75 ft. behind and periodically drop off the line and dive, surfacing close to the boat which had turned around and returned to the swimmer’s location. The swimmer would surface with arm outstretched and a find in hand; conch, lobster or other catch. The spiny lobster are no longer in season after April 1, so the lobster we saw them bring up were spanish lobster, looking more like a giant bug than anything edible. We spoke to the local fisherman later at the town dock, and he said they’re good eating, but then he was looking to sell some fish! The rest of his catch consisted of smaller reef fish, probably Sunday dinner for him. No buyers today, despite having finished the last of our mahi a night ago. Perhaps we gave too much away! We walked a bit from the Yacht Club Marina north to the airstrip which also does double duty as a portion of the road to the marina. The airstrip at Little Farmer’s is remarkable in that it is lighted. The lights are solar powered LED’s and each self-contained light standard is equipped with a small antenna and receiver to turn the lights on by radio from the aircraft. The airstrips are marked on the Explorer Charts, it’s not unusual to see one every few miles.

From the Yacht Club we dinghied into town and did a walking tour of the island. A town dock, some stores, a beauty salon, liquor store, BaTelCo tower and generating plant. Also noted was public water. Many of the small settlements now have some sort of public water, evidenced by poly piping coming up out of the sand with a plastic meter box sitting near the road, and piping snaking up to the house or simply a hose bibb near the meter with garden hose providing the supply. Still, much remaining evidence of cistern systems with downspouts all piped to a cement cistern and various arrangements of shallow well pumps and tanks, some in boxes, some just sitting on the top of the cistern, some still in service, but most just sitting, disconnected. Follows the general theme that when something no longer fulfills a useful function, it is generally abandoned in place. Cars, golf carts, boats, buildings, businesses, trash. No effort is expended to remove that which is no longer useful, since that creates another problem of what to do with the stuff at that point plus the redundant effort expended. Different culture.

We met some local folks as we walked, all very friendly. We also passed St. Mary’s Baptist Church, perhaps a bit of a misnomer, but services were in full swing, and swing would not be a mischaracterization judging from the sounds of the service!

With the pups having their morning exercise, we headed back to Maerin for lunch, and loaded some gear up to head to shore in search of the cave we had heard about from other cruisers. ActiveCaptain notes included a waypoint for the entrance, so we loaded the coordinates into the hand-held GPS and headed to shore. With our new prop installed, our dinghy trips are now quick, even with a full crew aboard! Without dogs we clipped along at nearly 18 kts. at WOT! Blinding speed when you’re accustomed to moving at 6-7 kts! We hiked up the trail from the beach, and after some criss-crossing, the GPS led us to the entrance to the cave. It’s a very interesting site, and although we brought snorkel gear, we decided we were not adventurous enough to swim back into the dark recesses of the cave! There is a fairly large opening under water that clearly leads to another area below the floor of the primary vestibule, and the cruising guide indicates that tank dives can be arranged with local guides. For rush junkies, it’s probably a must-do dive, but I think I’d be content to see the pictures! We did enjoy exploring the cave a bit, and did get some photos, but it IS DARK in there despite the appearances portrayed by the photos. Nearly all the photos were of a one second exposure, with supplemental light painted by our underwater dive flashlights. The photos were electronically enhanced to bring out the otherwise non-visible dark portions of the photo. There are additional photos, simply click on one of the blog photos to link to the photos in the gallery. We spent an hour or so in the cave, then exited and made the short hike to the ocean shore of the island to see the small bay visible from the bluff where the cave entrance is located. Lots of trash, not too much remarkable otherwise. The trash, almost exclusively plastic and poly, is junk that floats on the surface of the ocean, blown to shore in the prevailing easterlies, and in heavy seas washed onto the beach where it stays. Sad, but a consistent presence here. There are areas where efforts are mounted to clean up the trash, but the problem remains of where to dispose of it, and the efforts are always rewarded by a fresh crop of crap the next time the wind and waves wash more flotsam ashore.

We returned to the boat and retrieved the snoozing pups, taking them ashore for a beach walk where we discovered more, smaller caves in the face of the ironshore that fronts the sandy approach to parts of the beach. Sammy, our spelunking canine seems to enjoy the confines of the caves, and makes no hesitation to venture into the cool, dark recesses of the caves. Not an activity we encourage! Visions of mounting a subterranean rescue for a stuck Sammy keep us calling him back where we can easily see him!

We spent Monday doing some more exploring by dink, and scoping some snorkel spots for the afternoon. After a lunch of mahi salad sandwich, we donned wetsuits and headed out on the dink for some snorkel. Several of the spots yielded some color and fish, but the last spot we tried, just a few hundred yards from the boat was the best, a shallow coral head in about 6 ft of water. The most colorful find of the afternoon, and loaded with fish. More fish than we’ve seen in one location to date. We spent some time just floating back and forth over the head, an easy and relaxing activity with winds all but calm, and the surface of the water just rippled, no current.

With the problems we had with dive gear, it’s unlikely we’ll be doing any more diving until those problems are corrected, and even then here in the Bahamas, unless you have a dive compressor aboard, finding a spot to fill tanks can be a problem. Staniel Cay divers fills tanks for a premium of $12/fill. Stateside it’s about 4 bucks. Given that plus the cost of maintaing the gear and generally hassling with the gear, we’re giving the whole dive experience a critical eye. Great when it works out, but an awful lot to go through considering the ease with which we can be in the water and snorkeling. The wall dive at Conception was spectacular, and as we gain experience our tune may change, but we haven’t given up on diving just yet. The capability for diving on the boat for maintenance and repair is benefit enough to keep gear aboard, but simpler ways exist to accomplish that as well.

We plan to do a bit of snorkeling Tuesday before we move north to Black Point, and will return to yesterday’s hot spot to get some photos. We headed out Tuesday mid-morning to revisit the one coral head, and find some others. We saw and identified some more reef fish, saw a few lionfish, becoming a significant problem as they invade the Caribbean. Reportedly an aquarium was smashed in Florida during hurricane Andrew in 1992, releasing 6 of the venomous spiny fish into the Atlantic. Now they threaten the existence of indigenous reef fish, and there seems to be no way to stop the plague. Humans seem to be the lionfish’s only predator as they’re unaffected by parasites that local fish carry. They’re unmistakeable, and where a few years ago it was unusual to see one, now it’s unusual not to see one. We returned to the boat after about 45 minutes to re-clean masks, and at that point Molly was anxious to come with us in the dink, so we allowed her to come. Not usually a good plan, but she seemed to content to sit and watch for a while. We could hear her whining after a bit, and she soon joined us in the water. The snorkeling was delightful, with ideal conditions prevailing. We soon headed back and rinsed off the gear, then made the short 7nm run north to Black Point where we’ll do a few large loads of wash and revisit the settlement.

Our weather outlook for the next few days is predicted to hold in the same pattern. There’s always the dilemma with great weather, do we take advantage of the smooth cruising and travel, or take advantage of the beautiful weather and stay in a spot and enjoy it?! We’ve had great weather the past week, so we’re not moving too far! Since we’re again beyond internet access, the blog entries will be journaled daily and bulk posted in chronological order when we have access.

One Response to “Little Farmer’s Cay/Great Guana Cay”

  1. Mother on 13 Apr 2011 at 8:44 PM #