Andante's Sailing Blog

February 2014

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February 1, 2014

Philadelphia to Nassau

Yahoo! Left the snow and ice behind.

February 2, 2014 Sunday

Sightseeing in Nassau

On Paradise Island, the home of the really glitzy hotel in Nassau there are a couple of calm and quiet sights adhacent to one another. One is the cloister and the other is the Versaille Gardens.

In this row are two views of the Cloister. This is a very quiet and peaceful place far from the hustle and bustle of Nassau and the kitsch of the Paradise Island resort.

This gazeba is below the cloister and looks out across the nicer part of Nassau Harbour.

The cloister is a place for quiet contemplation.

Below is a statue of Franklin Roosevelt to be found in the Versaille Garden on Paradise Island

Below is a statue of Livingston of Stanley and Livingston fame. Why Roosevelt and Livingston statues are in Nassau is beyond me.

In the rows below are examples of more of the statuary to be found in the Versaille Garden.


The photo below left is the walkway leading up to the Ocean Reef Club, a very exclusive resort on the same island as the kitschy Paradise Island Resort that everyone associates with Nassau. On the right is a photo of one of the ponds in the Versaille Gardens.


In the below left photo kids will be kids everywhere. These kids were all speaking spanish so I surmise they came to the Bahamas from South America. Also in the rows below are photos of Potters Cay. These seafood restaurant shacks, of which there are about 50, lie below one of the bridge spans connecting Nassau and Paradise Island. The food at these places is simple, but quite good.





February 3, 2014 Monday

Nassau to Shroud Cay

Today the weather forecast was such that today looked like the best day to head for the Exuma chain. At that it was a close hauled motor sail. It seems that no day this year is without at least a minor mishap. While going about the business of raising the main off Porgee Rocks the halyard pulled out of my hand and the shackle jumped out of its loop. But, today turned out to be my lucky day. I tied off the halyard and got down on my hands and knees and found the shackle on the cabin top lodged under one of the fenders. It was a miracle that it didn't jump overboard. However, all was not to end well. During the night anchored off Shroud Cay I dragged anchor, waking up in the morning just before I came up on another anchored boat.

Now the errant shackle is leashed to halyard so that it doesn't try to take another swim. My solution to the shackle jumping out of its loop was to use cable ties to restrict its movement.

The schooner shown here is a does day sail trips out of Nassau for the tourists.

Sea Mist was one of the few boats departing Nassau with me. They also anchored of Shroud, but hurried quickly on the next day.


February 4, 2014

Visiting the Mangroves on Shroud

This bird is one of the many beautiful sights to be had while travelling through the Bahamas.

One of the creeks through the mangroves goes from the west side of Shroud to the east, or Exuma Sound, side. The folklore is that a 'hermit' got his boat throught the reefs and sandbars on the east side into a protected deep pool and never left. He is said to have built a home of driftwood. In the modern era cruisers had taken up the custom of climbing the hill overlooking his little anchorage and the Sound and depositing a memento of their time on Shroud. But, you can read for yourself how the park administrators feel about that.

All that is left of the original Camp Driftwood is the sign above.

The resourceful cruisers have established a new Camp Driftwood. Call it Camp Driftwood II.

A small sponge I found in amongst the detritus at Camp Driftwood II.

A bit of a scultpture at Camp Driftwood II.

A view of the Exuma Sound from Shroud.



The view from Camp Driftwood looking out across the creeks through the mangroves. For a discussion of the three species of mangrove see the Warderick Wells entry.

February 5, 2014 Wednesday

Shroud Cay to Hawksbill Cay

Beautiful sail to windward, one tack, at over 6 knots all the way. It was a short sailing day, only 7 nm. With the whole day free I hiked up to the Russell Ruins. At the end of the day I had dinner with Yves and Elaine on Velvet.

The Poisonwood tree is similar to the Gumbo-Limbo, but it is important to be able to disitinguish between them. The Gumbo-Limbo bark peels like a birch and has little venticles (holes). Also the leaves tend to be higher off the ground.


Just a view of Exuma Sound from a high point on Hawksbill.

Two views of some driftwood I found on the beach. This is probably the most exotic I have found.


Throughout the Bahamas there are ruins left from the era after the American Revolution when the Loyalists fled the colonies thinking that they could reestablish their old way of life in the Bahamas. Those fleeing to the Bahamas were primarily from the southern states and so they brought their slaves with them. The sad and unconscionable act is that as they realized that their new plantations were doomed to failure they just abandoned their illiterate slaves on the islands to fend for themselves. One of the more intact examples is to be found on Hawksbill Cay. Given the thin soil you ask how did they survive? Fish, conch, prickly pear cactus, and some local fruit: sour sop and sapodilla.

The Loyalist brought with them their penchant for building walls around their property.

They also found that they could make concrete using the local stone as the aggregate and making the binding agent, cement, by heating shells. This is the backside of one wall.

This is the front side of the wall in the upper right photo.

When it comes to food, in some cultures they eat termites. In this photo is a large termite colony. The termites are working to restore the topsoil that blew away when the Loyalists cut all the trees.

The Exuma Cays are largely a form of sandstone. Wave action and rain erode the stone to create caves throughout the cays.



February 6, 2014 Thursday

Hawksbill Cay to Warderick Wells

Sailed close hauled for the 21 nm in 10 to 14 knots of apparent wind. Seas were calm.


February 7, 2014

Warderick Wells

Changed the primary fuel filter. It was BLACK after 90 hours. The suggested interval between changes is 150 hours.Seems that perhaps my fuel problems are not over. In the afternoon I snorkeled on the Coral Garden. The Garden is on the edge of the mooring field below the Park headquarters. I am making these entires retrospectively. At the time of this writing the Park administrator was reported to have moaned that the silly cruisers were feeding the sharks. This year folks have reported seeing Lemon, Reef and Bull sharks in their.

A bit of coral or a vase?

You can see the fat and happy lobster hiding under the coral head. The lobsters get quite large inside the Park since no fisihing is permitted.

Another jumbo lobster.

When I was snorkeling the Coral Garden the tidal current was running pretty fast. These fish were taking shelter behind some coral.


February 8, 2014

Warderick Wells

Went on a 5 hour hike around the island. Went south on the Exuma Sound side down to Pirate's Lair. It was hot day so I went skinny dipping. Don't worry, the only people to see the naked, saggy, old man were the 27 virgins in string bikinis. After the swim I went back up tothe "Wall" to head to the west side of the island to see the Davis Ruins. The "wall" is a stone wall that runs across the island, Reminiscent of Hadrians Wall across England.

Below is the obligatory picture of the Park's north mooring field.

Another of the local birds. This year I have been seeing more birds in the Cays.

There are three kinds of magroves functioning in the Bahamas. The cycle is a massive, albeit slow, land reclamation project.


For the alternative medicine folks in the crowd, this is another plant historically used by the locals. In our era we have better living through chemistry: Thanks DuPont.

This little guy was posing for me.

Economic development even comes to the Park. Not quite on the same scale as the Verazano Narrows Bridge, but out here it will do.

Just in case you didn't get the Poisonwood Tree lesson earlier.

On my long walk I went down to Pirate's Lair Beach. Looking across the south mooring field you can see Hog Cay. There is a tunnel from the top of one of the hills down to the beach. The folklore is that this was used as an escape route by inhabitants of the Cay.

The Davis Ruins are not so much ruins as piles of rock.

This is all that is left of one of the walls of a building.

The New Englanders thought they had to clear a lot of rock. Around the Davis Ruins site are many such piles created to uncover small patches of top soil.

This is part of the wall that bisects the island in the vicinity of the Davis Ruins. Who were they trying to keep out, or in?

Remnants of another building. You can see a bit of the smooth face that was the interior.

In the two pictures below are the kinds of shells commonly found on the beaches. The three on the right are rare helmet shells. They are distinctly different from conch.



Two views up and down the Exuma Sound side of Warderick Wells.


Yet another stone wall on Warderick Wells. What were they thinking?

These sink holes are common in the Cays. They are not man-made, but they served as cisterns for the early settlers. A small number of them are quite deep and act like wells. Fresh water is less dense than salt water so floats on top. In deep formations such as these the fresh water lens floats on top of the salt water at the bottom of the "well."

Such sink holes and caves were also used as storm shelters. Today they can be quite dangerous as people put ladders in them to climb down.

Last year an eager a very well known and popular cruiser/explorer died when she fell while trying to climb one of these. There is now a memorial bench on top of BooBoo Hill. The plaque on the bench is inscribed with two of her favorite observations: Do not regret growing old, it is a privilege not granted to everyone. People will remember you not for the things that you did but for the way you made them feel.

The plaque at the right explains the ecological disaster wrought by the loyalists when they came and cut the trees throughout the Bahamas. In this little corner of the world one cannot help but understand that mankind can and does affect the climate.


After the Russell Ruins and the Davis Plantation Ruins one can only ask 'What were they thinking?' If you read 'Wind from the Carolinas' one of the things you will learn is that the loyalists were often staunch loyalists and they felt there was not a chance for remaining in the colonies. Additionally they had no resources to leave for England.

February 9, 2014 Sunday

Warderick Wells to Cambridge Cay

It was another windward sail. In order to cover the 7 nm as the crow flies I sailed 18 nm. In the afternoon I did a drift snorkel on Larry's Reef with the crews from Spartina and Togwattee. At the end of the day there was a cocktail hour on the 'Fee Box Cay' with many of those in the mooring field. Later I had dinner with the Claiborne, MD crowd.

February 10, 2014 Monday

Cambridge Cay

The Claiborne crowd departed for Warderick Wells. Surprisingly I was able to get email in this remote location via the BATELCO cell network. Today I also snorkeled on Bonsai Cay. The tidal current was running pretty fast so I didn't stay in the water too long. Also walked out to Bell Rock on the Exuma Sound side.

This island was privately owned when the Park was created. Within the last 5 or 6 years it was bought by the Aga Kahn, or so rumor has it. This monstrous construction project has resulted in the huge sand dune on Great Guana that I commented on at length last year.


The Cambridge Cay mooring field.

A beautiful sunset at Cambridge Cay


February 11 - 12 Tuesday and Wednesday

Cambridge Cay

Onthe 11th I went snorkrling with Roger and Christine on Oceanus from Cambridge, MD. We drifted the length of Larry's Reef three times. This was the second time out on this reef. The first was with Spartina and Tagwottee. The pictures from both expeditions are included below.

Isn't everyone picked up by private sea plane?


Some of the exotic sea creatures to be found on Larry's Reef.





On the same day that I did the drift snorkel with Roger and Christine we also paid a visit to the Rocky Dundas They are pictured below left.

The Rocky Dundas caves are thought to have been a sacred place for the Arawak indians. Behind the two cays there is an enormous midden of conch shells left by those early densizens.

There are holes in the ceilings of the caves to let in the sunlight.

The coral formation on the center right of the picture looks like a hand reaching out to hold the swimmers.

Notice the two rocks just below center in the picture. They look like skulls.

Skeletons of those sacrificed by the Arawak?

The formation on the right, deeper in the cave, looks like an alter with an offering on it.

On the 12th I mostly spent my time on board the boat since I have gotten too much sun and need to give my dermis a rest. Did some reading and worked on my model falsification paper that I am writing with George Lady

February 13, 2014 Thursday

Cambridge Cay

Short hike to high point of Cambridge Cay then dinner with Ann and Cindy on Krazy Lady. Bell Rock, so named for obvious reasons.

February 14, 2014 Friday

Cambridge Cay to Big Major Spot,Staniel Cay

Nice light sail all day. Went in to BATELCO office to get my cell phone topped up and to renew my data plan for my iPad. It is alomst two miles in the dinghy each way in a very slow dinghy. And wouldn't you know it, the BATELCO lady had taken Valentine's Day off. About all I accomplished was buying fuel.

February 15, 2015

Staniel Cay

On the boat all day. During the night the wind picked up with a westerly component, putting me on an iron bound lee shore. It was too choppy and too risky to leave the boat. At the end of the day things calmed down enough to dinghy over to Dennis and Tracy on board Jalu with their Austrian friends Rudi, Elfrede and Rudi Jr. They had met in 2000/2001 when both families were crusining here.

February 16 Sunday

Staniel Cay

In the AM I took the dinghy to town again hoping to find distilled water for my batteries and some fresh fruit. Everthing was closed. To kill the day I walked out to the old "Thunderball Bar and Restaurant" then over to the Staniel Cay Beach.

Another cave. This time at Big Major Spot. I liked the column at the entrance to the cave.

Full moon over the anchorage at Big Major Spot.

The pigs at Big Major Spot are a major tourist attraction.

They swim and are known to try to climb into the dighies of the people feeding them. In their eagerness to get the food they have been known to chomp on the those who are slower to withdraw their hands.

The cruisers are always looking for a beach on which to party. Years ago when we were here this party spot was vacant.

For the more active souls there is darts.

Thunderball Restaurant and Bar, across the little bay from the caverns used in the movie of the same name, has been vacant for years.

The view from Thuderball Restaurant over to Staniel Cay.

During the year there is a regatta circuit for the local boats and crews.One of the more famous, Tida Wave, hails from Staniel Cay. In the competition on Little Farmer's Cay on February 1 she cracked her mast. The only measurement rule for these boats is overall length. In addition there are restrictions on their construction. The most notable rule is that they must be wooden. The steel hoops on the deck are to hold the boards that the crew hike out on when sailing to windward.




February 17, 2014 Monday

Big Major Spot to Black Point Settlement

In the AM I dinghied into town again to make another effort to find fruit and distilled water. No one has distilled water! On the other hand the Pink Store and the Blue Store were both well stocked with fresh food. On departure from Big Major I sailed wing and wing at 5-6 knots before the wind out to Harvey Cay. On turning the corner I was on a close reach in 15-18 knots apparent. Great sailing conditions and I made 7 - 7.7 knots. The anchorage at Black Point is crowded, 50 boats, the most I have ever seen here.

February 18, 2014 Tuesday

Black Point

Laundry today! Strong cell phone signal! Free wifi! Garbage; nominally free but they ask for a donation. Love this place.

February 19, 2014 Wednesday

Black Point

Today I got a haircut from Ida, the woman who owns/runs the best Laundromat in the Bahamas.  Afterwards some of us walked out to what had appeared to be a stalled resort project.  Along the way we found some new roadside signs promoting the project, and further on we met Frank.  He turned out to be the nominal caretaker and the only homeowner in the project.  He regaled us with the story of the project and his role in it. Apparently with the new government there have been some important changes in the tax law.  The exorbitant import levies on the importation of construction materials have been lifted and there has been renewed interest by foreigners investing in the Bahamas.




Even in a very dry cliimate an effort is made to have some color in the landscaping.


February 20, 2014 Thursday

Black Point

Went out walking today.  On my excursion I visited the Garden of Eden, the cemetery and the blow hole on the Exuma Sound side of the island. At the end of the day many of the cruisers gathered at a local watering hole known as Scorpios for their happier hour.



February 21, 2014 Friday

Black Point

Today Krazy Lady and I walked out to the white horses on the north end of Great Guana.  Unless we just didn’t know where to look, the white horses have succumbed to erosion caused by the tides and storm action.





February 22, 2014 Saturday

Black Point to Helly’s Land

To cover 5 miles as the crow flies it was necessary to sail ten miles.  Another windward day, but a lovely sail. More than 6 knots, close hauled. The purpose in going to Hetty’s Land was to hike over to the Sound side and look for the caves.  Again, we didn’t know quite where to look.  If we found the correct location then the caves have collapsed to a pile of enormous rocks. At the end of the day Brian and Teddy Sue on Indian Summer turned up.

February 23, 2014


Hetty’s Land to Oven Rock then on to Darby Island

The goal for the day was originally to go over to Little Farmers Cay.  This had been one of my goals last year, but the weather just didn’t make it possible.  This year the plan was also scrubbed due to the strong SW wind that made the anchorage on the west side of Little Farmers untenable. Instead we settled for a stop at Oven Rock for the hike up to the caves with the freshwater pond.






February 24, Monday

Darby Island and Rudder Cut Cay

This morning Indian Summer left for George Town in order to be sure that they would be there for incoming guests.  In racing on they missed out on the underwater sculpture and the caves on Rudder Cut Cay.










The Nassau Grouper season is closed so this guy is safe for now. He should be safe in any case since he is so small.



Three views of the same pair of rocks, followed by the profile of the fellow guarding the cave and rocks on the opposite side of the point housing the first cave shown above.




February 25, 2014 Tuesday

Darby Island to Lee Stocking Island

Attempted to sail for 3 nm.  There just wasn’t enough wind.  When the boat speed dropped to less than 2 knots I gave up and motored on in the company of Krazy Lady to Lee Stocking Island, former home of the Caribbean Marine Research Lab. I was in the water for a swim when Jeff and Susan on Meltemi came into the harbor!


Ann Gates and I made our way out to the east side of the island to hunt for fish and lobster.  I had given up and walked up the beach when Ann caught up to tell me she had found a lobster but had not been able to spear.  We quickly got back in the water and I brought home dinner for that night.



Big feast on Meltemi.


We were joined in the little harbor by the sailing vessel Poco Loco, a Chesapeake Bay bug eye skipjack with a mermaid figurehead on the bow. On board were Bob and Diane with crew Ronnie.




February26, 2014 Wednesday

Lee Stocking Island

With Jeff, Susan and Ann I explored the abandoned/vacant research center and the northern end of the island. Below Jeff is shaking hands with the sole remaining researcher at the Lab.



In the row below on the right are the 'pens' where the staff raised conch for research.




To get the scientists in and out of Lee Stocking there was an airstrip. The control tower at one of the strip is pictured below:



This house is built on a high point at the north end of Lee Stocking Island. It has 360o views of the Sound, the banks and the surrounding cays.



On our explorations of the north end of the island we came across this spider:



February 27, 2014


Lee Stocking Island

Today Ann and I hiked to the highest point in the Exuma island chain.  At the trail head we met a young couple that were kayaking/camping around the islands from Norman’s Pond and Lee Stocking down to Barre Terre on Great Exuma.

Ann atop the survey pylon marking the highest point in the Exuma Chain.


February 28, 2014 Friday

Lee Stocking Island

Today’s expedition had several intentions.  The first was to go up to Leaf Cay to see the pink iguanas and the second was to get in the water to look for more lobster.  The first goal was met, but the wind and tides were not right for hunting for lobster. The pink iguanas are so large and so striking that I include many photos of them here.



From Leaf Cay we took the dinghy around to the west side of Norman's Pond to get access to the former salt ponds and ruins. Along the way we came to the conclusion that there ought to be many Conch out on the grassy flats. We didn't habe our snorkel gear with us to test the hypothesis, and probably wouldn't have taken any in any case since they are difficult to clean.


We found this bad boy in the mangrove creek running into the pond that had been used to create the salt pans.

This is a sluice gate previously used to control the water level in the pond and salt pans. In the right half of the picture you can see where the water currently runs and in effect has created an infinity pool.

Below are two views of the infinity pool taken from the creek feeding the pond. When we were there the tide was rushing out. When we were ready to leave we just floated down the creek.


Two views of the pond in the interior of Norman's Pond Cay. We were not able to see or find any ruins shown on the explorer charts.



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