Georgetown to Exumas

Posted By: Geoff & Iza Prower on Jul 13th 2015

Georgetown is on the north shore of Great Exuma, a very large island. A mile north of Georgetown lies Stocking and Elizabeth Islands. This forms a huge natural harbor. Mostly quite shallow, so careful navigation is required. There are many pleasant anchorages.

 Beach at White Point, Great Guana Cay
 Beach at White Point, Great Guana Cay

Our previous visits have been in the winter, peak sailing time when there are probably 400 boats here. This visit, there were probably 20 boats.

Read a story in a magazine when we first started sailing the Bahamas about a couple who had been put off visiting Georgetown for re-provisioning for a number of years as they were nervous about the navigation challenges into the harbour. Finally they got up the courage to give it a go. Having successfully navigated through the shoals, they expected to be one of the few brave folk to have made it. Turned the last corner to find 400 plus boats had beaten them to it!

Georgetown is an annual pilgrimage for many sailors as the social life here is passed on from year to year. For many, it’s as far as they ever go. For other more adventurous souls it’s a re-provisioning stop en-route to discover the beautiful islands of the remote Bahamas. We last visited in 2005. Not much has changed in the town, but there has been a real growth in fancy vacation homes.

We found internet, but still no SIM cards. It’s Saturday and Batelco is closed…Again!

With most of the Exumas, you have the choice of sailing up the east side in deep Atlantic waters, where there are supposed to fish to catch!, or on the west side along the shallow banks. We sailed downwind from Georgetown, very leisurely along the Atlantic side, then entered the banks at Rudder Cay Cut, around the southern tip of Rudder Cut Cay to find an anchorage on the protected west side. There are a number of bays and also a completely enclosed natural harbour. The island may be owned by the owner of neighbouring Musha Cay, (David Copperfield, the illusionist, we believe), but there does not appear to be any development. NO OTHER BOATS!

Another few hours of playing with the tide. Going north close to the western shoreline of Rudder Cut Cay, then Musha Cay, then Cave Cay, (Johnny Depp?), there were many shoals, not all of which we expected to be charted correctly as they shift over time. Sure enough, the channels weren’t all where they were supposed to be and we found some seriously shallow areas.

Once north of Cave Cay and further west on to the Banks, it was much clearer, as we headed well clear of the western shoreline of Great Guana Cay. We have passed this very long thin island, mostly undeveloped island a number of times and it was always appealing. White beaches everywhere. So we finally managed to stop there for a few hours just north of White Point. Wonderful beach and SPECTACULAR warm blue water over clear white sand. Brought Dreaming On in as close as we dared, but still quite a way out with barely 6” under the keel and kayaked to the beach. Could have probably walked. NO OTHER BOATS!

So after an enjoyable couple of hours there, we moved north again over the Banks to Harvey Cay, just outside Staniel Cay. The idea being to anchor at Harvey Cay overnight, then move in the following morning to anchor off Staniel Cay, a busy little place in the peak winter period for boaters, and hope for internet and a SIM card.

 

Acklins and Crooked Island to Georgetown, Great Exuma

Posted By: Geoff & Iza Prower on Jul 13th 2015

Acklins and Crooked Island to Georgetown, Great Exuma through Hog Cay Cut  

A lively sail in deep water just off the shallows of The Bight of Acklins. 16nm at an average of 8.6kts.
We remember Fish Cay and Guana Cay situated on the shallow banks in wonderfully calm water on a previous visit. Fish Cay is where you find the iguanas and Guana Cay is where you find most fish! Not calm today though. It’s been blowing over 25kts all day and having crawled through shallows between sand bars to the only anchorage here, we are bouncing around just a little.

Fish Cay, Crooked Island
Fish Cay, Crooked Island

Met by a large turtle and a lone dolphin.

The fishing lines were out again for the trip, and we followed the very deep water a mile off the drop off. Nothing!

A lively night of current versus wind and waves in our anchorage, then a morning kayak visit to Fish Cay. A beautiful beach that we first visited in 2006, with water in typically Bahamian colours, along with many very large sting rays and a nurse shark in the shallows. NO OTHER BOATS!

Landrail Point, Crooked Island

We had hoped to find internet and a SIM card at Great Inagua. There’s only one provider in the Bahamas and they were closed and the internet was down! So our best hope was a stop at Landrail Point on Crooked Island. Internet was down and the Batelco office was too far to walk, so again no communication.   NO OTHER BOATS!

We have sailed along the usual north south route on the eastern side of Long Island. It’s a long way, it’s usually rough, it’s usually at night and not something to which to look forward, so we decided to try the very skinny Hog Cay Cut between The Exumas and western Long Island. All in all a good decision. We needed to night stop on the south western side of Long Island so we could make Hog Cay on a rising tide in daylight. Another very rolly night. That swell is just following us everywhere!

Turquoise waters off Hog Cay Cut, Exumas
 Hog Cay Cut, Exumas

Hog Cay Cut

Although we have sailed various parts of the Bahamas Banks, it is always a surprise at how many thousands of square miles of banks there are. Always several shades of amazing blue. As we reached the banks south of Hog Cay, we still had another 30 miles or so to go in blue, blue water over pure white sand and hardly any land in sight. An amazing feeling with an average of 5 feet under the keel.

Hog Cay Cut is narrow and winds around between Hog Cay and Goat Cay. It is shallow. On the charts, the minimum mean depth is 3.3 feet. Dreaming On draws just under 5’. Luckily the wind, currents and tides cooperated and we saw a minimum depth of 5.2’. A good way to clean the barnacles off the keels!

From there, a very pleasant downwind sail to Georgetown, the main town in the Exumas and our major internet and email hope.

Great Inagua to Castle Island, Acklins via Hogsty Reef

Posted By: Geoff & Iza Prower on Jul 13th 2015

Left Great Inagua on 21 June heading for Hogsty Reef. We’ve been there twice before and always enjoyed calm waters inside the reef and its remoteness. Only ever seen two boats and the US Coast Guard there.

A little while after we left Great Inagua, while under sail at 8.5 knots, we were visited by fast patrol boat P125 from the Bahamas Defense Force. While motoring a few feet away, we had a very courteous radio exchange, checking that we had cleared in correctly, where were we heading and was everything OK. They wished us an enjoyable stay in the Bahamas saying that they were always available on CH 16 if we ever needed assistance. Nice visit.

Castle Island beach
Castle Island beach

After our rough trip to Great Inagua, today’s to Hogsty was fantastic. An average speed of well over 8 knots over the 44 mile trip. The seas were kind so a very comfortable trip…..Until we reached Hogsty and tried to furl the genoa! The lock on the stored spinnaker halyard had slipped, allowing the halyard to lie across the top of the genoa. When we tried to furl the genoa in, the halyard became trapped in the top furling mechanism. Geoff went up the mast to try to release it but it was too rough. We called that off when he was half way up and swinging around quite hairily. Once he was safely down and we were working on a safer plan B we noticed the halyard had released itself in the wind and rolling. Should have had a beer and waited!

We looked in vain for the calm anchorages we had found in Hogsty Reef on our two previous visits, but it was rough everywhere. Only one other boat at the reef overnight.

A very rough night at Hogsty and no point in staying, so left early for the 44 nm run north to Acklins Island. Not as good a sail as the previous day, but still a good way to spend the day. Fished all the way…..No catch!

Castle Island lighthouse
Castle Island lighthouse

Twice before we have rounded the south eastern corner of the Crooked/Acklins Island group. Each time we have been curious about Castle Island right off the southern tip of Acklins where there is a lighthouse. So on this trip we pulled in behind Castle Island and discovered a hidden gem. Wonderful blue Bahamian water, beautiful long white sand beaches and deserted. A great place to open a “Soggy Lighthouse” beach bar, except it is miles from anywhere! We are still 185 nm south of the central Exumas!

After our kayak beach visit, moved to Datum Bay on the west side of Acklins Island. Another great spot that we have visited previously. Wonderful protected calm blue water with white sand and NO OTHER BOATS!

Passage to the Bahamas

Posted By: Geoff & Iza Prower on Jul 4th 2015

After a couple of days catching our breath after the closing of our lives in BVI and saying farewell to old cruising friends in St. Thomas, we headed off on 16 June to Great Inagua in the southern Bahamas.

The trip started well with a wonderful broad reach around the western tip of St. Thomas and then headed slightly north of west. The seas and wind were perfect as we passed north of Culebra and to the north east point of Puerto Rico. It was downhill from there!!

A feathered hitchhiker
A Feathered Hitchhiker

Lighter very variable winds and a large swell from the east slowed us right down on the main part of the journey, heading in a westerly direction, staying well north of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. The swell grew to the point where it was sometimes approaching the stern higher than our dinghy up on davits. Our transom and sugar scoops were pounded for three days. Each wave ran the risk of broaching. A wave would pass under the boat from the stern, and we would be almost stalled at 4 knots. Within a couple of seconds, we were often over 10 knots and on a dark night when you cannot see what’s waiting and the bottom of the roller coaster, it’s a bit if an adrenaline rush to say the least.

Now add to that some severe squalls with high wind gusts, rain and no visibility, plus the occasional thunder storm, usually at night, and you get the picture!

We had a couple of feathered visitors along the way. One small bird, yet to be identified, stopped for a break late on the first evening. On the second night we had a tropic bird trying to land on one of our kayaks fastened to the safety rails. We were bouncing around too much, so he went elsewhere.

We fished all the way. Lost leader and lure to something with really big teeth on two occasions and had one small Mahi mahi get away. Lots of fishing….No catching!  Lots of weed!

You can sail the seas and encounter no other traffic whatsoever, and then, the one large tanker or cargo ship you see wants to pass through the exact same patch of water that you want to pass through at exactly the same time….And always at night. The odds of that happening in the vastness of the ocean are millions to one, but it happens every time without fail!  This is here AIS proves its value.

Anyway, arrived almost unscathed but very tired at Great Inagua, on the southern Bahamas to clear in. After the volcanic mountainous appearance of the BVI, Great Inagua reaches the grand height of 36 feet! If you didn’t know it was there, you would pass right by. Great Inagua offers the most polite and efficient Customs and Immigration service we have come across on our travels, and they give you a lift back to the dinghy dock. Can’t beat that after 4 nights at sea!

The island is famous for its salt pans. The majority of the population of 1,000 work for the salt mining company. They produce a million plus pounds of salt a year.

Our Last Dive

Posted By: Geoff & Iza Prower on Jun 8th 2015

Turtle
Turtle at Monkey Point

Our final dive in the BVI today. A quick one at Monkey Point, Guana Island.

Not the most exciting dive of all time, but an opportunity to check equipment and we were lucky to see our friendly turtle cruise by. We hope to do lots of diving on our way and in Belize. Watch this space for updates.

Our Final Cruise around the BVI

Posted By: Geoff & Iza Prower on Jun 7th 2015

Eustacia Sound, Virgin Gorda
Eustacia Sound, Virgin Gorda

So the time has come.

After 5 enjoyable but busy years in the British Virgin Islands, we are heading for new cruising and chartering grounds.

Our final cruise around the BVI, saying farewell to a few more of our favourite places was with our son Simon, wife Miho and daughters, Aila (3) and Maaya, (6 months). Simon has been on board many times but this was the family’s first visit.

The Baths
The Baths

Favourite placed included in this trip were Monkey Point and White Bay, Guana Island; Valley Trunk Bay, The Baths, North Sound and Eustacia Sound, Virgin Gorda.

Final preparations this week for leaving the BVI, then looking for a favourable weather window for a run to the southern Bahamas. Our plan is to spend around three weeks working our way north through the Bahamas, then head for Fort Lauderdale, Florida for some retail therapy and re-supply. A few boat jobs to complete there, the major one being the installation of new fuel tanks, then we are off to Belize. Plan on being in Belize by early August to prepare for our Belize charter season starting November.

We will be adding a map to this blog along with tracks of our route for anyone to follow.

Why Belize?

Posted By: Geoff & Iza Prower on Jun 6th 2015

BELIZE is truly one of the world's last, relatively undiscovered travel destinations. The waters of Belize have so much to offer. Incredible diving, snorkeling, island hopping, beaches and eco tours.

 

Dreaming On Deck

An average temperature of 84 degrees throughout the year and warm water year round makes this a sailing destination that is hard to beat.

Fantastic natural features such as the Blue Hole and deserted lagoons and cayes abound. Time it right, March to early June and you could watch the whale sharks migrating along the coast.

For the US and Canadian traveler, Belize also offers the distinct advantage of being the only country in Central America with English as the national language.

And remember...No Christmas winds or over-crowded anchorages!