Sunday, April 19, 2015

Between Islands

Picking our way through coral heads leaving Calabash Bay
Isn’t it funny how quickly the unknown can become known?  Sailing in the Exuma Sound once held a fearful aspect that has now gone.  Even though the water is literally thousands of feet deep and gets deep shockingly fast once leaving the shallows near the islands, it no longer feels foreign or scary to me.  My comfort zone has grown by leaps and bounds in these few weeks we’ve been sailing around the Bahamas.  

I feel like a broken record talking about the weather all the time, but it is such a huge part of what we do out here every day.  It governs our movements and our enjoyment of life.  After weeks of winds in the 20+ knot ranges, we’ve finally got a break and are seeing winds of 15 knots and less.  Wind can be a bad thing, but then it can also be a good thing.  Too much of it keeps the seas rollicking and pins us down.  Too little of it means we have heat, bugs and probably have to motor to get anywhere.  Why can’t there just be a happy medium?

After our grand outing on Long Island, Bruce and I were ready to go again.  Choices.  Should we go to Conception Island with our friends on Uno Mas? Or press on to Cat Island and be that much closer to the Abacos?  We figured that Conception Island would still be experiencing the swell caused by recent windy days since we were feeling some of it here at the northern part of Long Island.  And with that as our reason, we headed out to jump from northern Long Island to Cat Island.  

We had two stops in mind planned for Cat Island.  The first was The Bight.  Once we picked our way out of Calabash Bay via the northern route through the reef into deeper water, we rolled out the jib and raised the main only to find that we would need to bear off significantly from our lay line in order to get any wind in our sails.  For a while that was OK.  We had plenty of daylight and the boat felt good.  We enjoyed looking across the water at the clouds that line up along the islands exposing their unseen presence to us.  Somehow that just makes me feel “connected” for lack of a better word.  

There were waves rolling beneath us, I guess they’re about 3 feet but every now and then one would lift us and rock us good.  For some reason, Jezabelle has decided that she no longer needs to hunker down below in battle stations.  She actually joined us in the cockpit for the entire day.  This is a breakthrough of epic proportions as it means that there will be no need to clean up cat vomit and other unmentionable things as soon as we drop anchor.  

Smoke on Cat Island
After jibing the boat we started heading directly at the lower part of Cat Island.  We had noticed that there was a plume of smoke coming from somewhere off in the distance.  As we neared the island we realized that it was Cat Island that was burning.  It was probably an agricultural burn covering a large area and we could see a long line of smoke.  It looked as if the whole southern part of the island was on fire.  This could change our plans significantly!!!

I really wanted to visit The Bight but not if it would mean we were blanketed in smoke all night.  I quickly found an alternate anchorage that would position us out of the line of fire (sorry, it just came out).  

As we bobbed peacefully in our spot at Hawk’s Nest Point,(N24°09.649’, W075°31.453’) I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on over there for sure and hoped the fire would be put out soon.  
Sunrise shows the smoke is still there.

Dawn revealed the fire ashore still smoldering.  Sadly, we would pass on The Bight and continue on to Dumfries Settlement.  Once again we attempted to raise sails, but today the wind was even lighter than yesterday and once again, dead behind us.  

We tried for a while, then gave up and rolled it all in again.  At least we’re getting some practice! 

With the wind ever decreasing and our boat speed literally outrunning what little wind there was, we felt the sun beating down on us.  The bimini was radiating heat and we had to put up sun shades, which kept the blistering sun off of us, but unfortunately it kept the breath of wind off as well.  

We relaxed with our books.  The cats sprawled.  Bruce put out the fishing lures and read about how to dress a mahi mahi just in case….  

We have done some fishing but caught nothing.  We weren’t very hopeful today.  We left the deeper water and motored along in depths of 35 to 45 feet as we traveled up the lee shore of Cat Island.  Suddenly one of the rods began to buzz.  Fish ON!!!  I stopped the boat and kept watch that we didn’t drift onto a coral head while Bruce grabbed the pole and brought the fish alongside the boat.

What is it!!! Oh wouldn’t it be awesome to have some fresh fish to eat???  But then we realized that it was a really nice barracuda.  Some people eat them and we’ve even heard that they aren’t dangerous here in the Bahamas… but no.  

We won’t be eating this guy.  I gathered the gaff and net while Bruce brought the fish in.  Then he was able to hold the fish with the gaff and dislodge the hook to set him free once again.  We were happy to see him swim off.  

It was a bit of excitement even if we didn’t get a nice meal out of it.  We considered hauling in the lines but figured we would let them drag for a while longer.  We had just settled back on our lay line when the rod when zing again.  This time it broke the hook, whatever it was…And to add insult to injury, when we pulled in the other line, the lure was gone.  There were teethmarks in the line.  Well I guess there are fish in these waters after all.  Maybe we need to get a little more serious about catching them!

Soon we began to see a glowing light colored strip of water that indicated our approach to the point we would round before turning in to our anchorage.  It grew into a beautiful bank as we entered the shallow water and began to watch for coral heads.  We strained our eye looking at the shore in search of a small opening in the rocky beach where we wanted to anchor.  

This small opening leads into a shallow protected area where we can land the dinghy for access to shore.  We spotted it as we got close and easily anchored in about 15 feet.  Strangely the winds were out of the south with even some southwest thrown in.  There wasn’t any mention of southwest in the forecast.  This brought rollers our way with little protection from them but with the winds being light, we weren’t overly concerned.  

We splashed the dinghy and went in through the narrow gap to explore a bit.  Once inside, the waters were instantly calm.  

We followed a deep trough off to the left until it ran out.  A turtle swam for his life away from us.  I didn’t know they could move that fast.  We beached the dinghy and checked out a small pavilion there, making plans to leave the dinghy there in the morning for our visit ashore.  

As the sun began to set, we returned to the boat and had transom showers off the back.  It’s a good way to wash our hair without using up our precious fresh water.  Then we go inside for a final rinse.  It’s a nice way to cool down after a hot afternoon exploring.  We relaxed with sundowners and had a simple dinner then early to bed with the sun.  Tomorrow we would go in search of Crown Cave!

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