Sunday, April 5, 2020

In the Jumentos Cays and Ragged Islands of the Bahamas

I’ll try to get you caught up with our travels.

While we were in Puerto Rico for almost a week we got caught up on some projects and did some provisioning.  Due to the virus alerts we did not venture too far from the marina.  We were monitoring the weather and planning our next passage when we got the forecast we were looking for.  We would have about four days between systems to make our move.  The winds were still high but were to drop each day until we would have to start motoring.  We chose to leave on Saturday, the 14th.  The seas had not settled down yet as we motored directly into them in order to get around the East end of the island.  We motored for about six hours until we were clear of the island and we could change course and hoist sails.  We were beating into the wind and as the wind increased we dropped the mainsail and continued on with just the mizzen and headsail.  We were getting pushed around a lot by about 6-8 foot seas that were hitting us on the beam (side of the boat) with a number breaking onto the deck.  Twice that night we were hit with a wave big enough to get into the cockpit through the side curtains and even splash onto our bed.  Eventually we were able to turn down a little to get a better angle to the wind and waves but it was still a rough ride.  The winds were in the 20’s and we were doing 7-8 knots.

Each day the winds dropped and the ride was getting better.  By Monday the wind had dropped into the teens and the seas had dropped and we again hoisted the mainsail.  We continued on and Tuesday the winds were 10-15 with 2-5 foot seas.  We were approaching our destination and altered course and then by evening had to drop sails and motor the remainder.  We arrived at Great Inagua Cay in the Bahamas and dropped anchor about 8:45 pm.  We had traveled 510 miles in 84 hours.

You may wonder what we do during this time?  Mostly tried to sleep.  We keep a constant watch of conditions and for other vessels so someone is always in the cockpit.  We vary between 6 hour shifts during the day and four hours during the night.  Therefore someone is always trying to sleep which isn’t easy when the boat is heeled over and being pitched about by the waves.

In the morning, Wednesday the 18th, we dinghied into the marina and walked up to Customs and Immigration to check in.  We were lucky that the Customs officials were on their way to the office and stopped to give us a ride after questioning about our health.  We were able to check in and were all set.  While we were checking in the Prime Minister was announcing the changes being instituted for closing down the islands.  We were just in time.  The anchorage is subject to a swell that causes a nasty roll so we pulled anchor and moved around to the west side of the island into Man O’ War Bay where it wasn’t rolling as bad.  There were only three other boats with lots of room between them, perfect for social distancing.  We stayed here for a week, relaxing on the boat, exploring with the dinghy and doing some snorkeling.  At one time we got too close to breaking waves and all of a sudden we were surfing down a six foot wave until it broke over us and we had to climb up the next one to get out of the mess.  Another day we were in a bay snorkeling and looking for conch when a four foot shark came over to check me out, twice.  No conch but also no shark bites but I was able to swim with a stingray for a bit.  At the end of the week we moved back to the anchorage by town and made a trip in to pick up some gasoline and hit the grocery store.  I filled two 5 gallon jerry jugs with gas for the outboards and generator at a cost of $72.00 US.  They don’t sell fuel at the marina so they have a truck deliver it.  After a tip for the driver it cost $75.00 for 10 gallons.  I plan on using it sparingly.  We used the marinas WiFi to check messages and to send the quick update to the blog.

On Saturday, the 28th, after a rolley night we pulled anchor and moved on.  We were heading to a section of the Bahamas called the Ragged Islands.  It was going to be a 24 trip.  With winds blowing 15-20 knots and seas of 4 feet just off the beam (slightly behind us) we sailed at 6-7 knots until arriving in the morning.  We turned off at Johnson Cut and followed the waypoints on the chart until we arrived at Hog Key in the Raggeds, there are many Hog Cays in the Bahamas.  We had traveled 159 miles in 25 hours.  After taking a nap to get caught up on sleep we went to shore to check out the island.  We walked the beach for a bit and then took a trail over to the ocean side of the island to check that out.

The Ragged Islands are remote with just one settlement on the southern most island.  That is the only cell tower and we were too far away to get a signal.  In the morning we pulled anchor and motored down to Southside Bay on Ragged Island and anchored.  There were five other boats here.  We walked into town to see if the store had any fresh fruit or vegetable but we were out of luck.  The town still has a lot of damaged buildings from the last couple of hurricanes but it now has a new solar farm along with the generator to supply power.  They also have a cell tower.  Walking back to the boat we missed our turn and ended up at the end of the runway at the airport.  The terminal consisted of a group of chairs under a tree and a platform with a couple of fire extinguishers.  Not what we are used to seeing for an airport but a nice paved runway with solar powered lights.  In the morning we went to check out one of the beaches and to look for a trail to the ocean side.  Not finding anything on the beach or a trail we went back to the boat and pulled anchor.

The weather forecast was for winds out of the West on Wednesday and we needed to find a location that was protected from the West.  We motored up to Double Breasted Cay where we knew several others were going.  We dropped anchor with five other boats and settled in for the night.  During the night the winds shifted and were kicking up some rough chop but nothing too bad.  Several boats bailed out for better locations but we chose to stay and ride it out.  By evening the winds had shifted to the northwest and things calmed down.

Thursday morning, the 2nd, we dropped the dinghy and went to one of the small close by islands to look for shells and sea-beans.  Sea-beans are seeds, about 1-2 inches across, that wash up on the shore, usually the ocean side, after being washed down the rivers on the islands in the Caribbean or from South America.  They are considered to be lucky and can be carved and polished for ornamentation.  We found a few but hit the jackpot when we moved to the ocean side of Double Breasted Cay.  There were two beaches between the rocks and along with all of the litter, mostly plastic, were sea-beans.  I beat Cori by finding 63 to her 61.  There are a variety of different types, what we found are called sea-hearts and a couple of hamburgers (which look like little hamburgers).  They are used by cruisers for decoration and crafts.  By the time we got back to the boat the winds had shifted, now from the northeast and the anchorage got rough again.  We pulled anchor and moved over to Raccoon Cay and dropped the hook.  We had the place to ourselves.  Most of the other boats had gone back to Hog Cay.  In the morning we dinghied to shore to explore.  The charts showed some ruins and after bushwhacking through the brush we found the ruins of a small cottage, the walls three feet thick built from the local rock.  We also found several rock wall fences winding through the brush along with a herd of goats.  One other boat joined us in the bay.

Today is Saturday, the 4th, and we pulled anchor again and sailed back down to Southside Bay with the intent of getting connected to the cell tower.  It was just 15 miles but a great sail with all three sails flying.  We plan on staying here for a couple more days.

What is happening with the Covid-19 virus in the Bahamas?  There are several cases on the most populated islands but not on the more remote islands.  They are trying to contain it by not allowing any travel between islands, an early curfew, and closing down all but essential business.  We as cruisers are still allowed to move from island to island but the latest order is that we cannot get off our boats except for essentials such at fuel, water and provisions.  Many have cut their stay early and are on their way home.  Being a we live on our boat we do not have a “home” to go back to.  We have decided to extend our stay in the islands as long as they will allow us staying in the more remote islands or isolating ourselves from groups of locals or other cruisers.

Sorry there are no pictures but we have a very slow connection.

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