Sailing with Sandy

We’ve spent two months in the Bahamas so far. Still amazed at the view of the blue ocean and aqua green Bahama Banks, the warm temperatures, the fun and helpful cruising community here, and the Bahamian style foods like jerk chicken and baked macaroni- yum!

However, the mail back home was stacking up and we needed a replacement wind vane. We were ever so thankful that friend Sandy Gordon was up for a visit and willing to bring those items and some surprise dark chocolate to us! Sandy had previously sailed her own boat, Summer Wind to the Abaco’s, but she had never been this far south; to the Exuma’s, in the Bahamas.

Sandy flew in to Georgetown on January 29th. Rather than a mid-day arrival she had an extra flight halfway from Atlanta then back again; and a final trip on a different plane. Her arrival at dinner time was a relief for us all. We had anchored in beautiful Goat Cay to ensure a calm anchorage and a short walk and dinghy ride.

The next day we motored over to Kidd’s Cove to buy a Bahamas cell chip for Sandy’s phone and do some looking around town and shopping. Then it was lunch time! Let’s have “a burger and a refreshing grapefruit beer” at Choppy Waters, the Exuma Yacht Club restaurant.

The upper deck is a great place to eat and to capture the view of our boat in the harbor.

After topping up the water tanks, we motored across the harbor to anchor at the gathering spot on Chat ‘n Chill beach. The holding is tricky in spots and this was our first time anchoring with the new Rocna 20 anchor and new electric windless, we had fun bringing it up and down by stepping on the electric switches or using a handheld remote as we adjusted our position relative to the beach and nearby boats. Wow, what a nice improvement to our boat life; loving this!

Sandy and I took an afternoon walk on the beach and spotted a ray. Then we quizzed some cruisers about weaving baskets with silver palm fronds.

The next day, Tom and Sandy attended a Georgetown cruisers were beach seminar on batteries.

Then we set sail with 3 other boats for Hog Cay to the southeast of Great Exuma. We made it through Hog Cay Cut before high tide and anchored for the night. The next morning, we were the last to raise the anchor and head south to the Jumento’s. Unfortunately, the engine immediately quit as the alternator belt broke. So we re-anchored to replace it with a spare. Winds were light and behind us. However, we chose to conserve engine running so had a leisurely sail south to Water Cay. We broke another belt just outside the anchorage. That belt only lasted an hour! Once in the harbor, Tom spent some time rechecking belt, alternator and water pump alignment. He also electrically disconnected the alternator to see if the belt would run smoother.

Sandy promptly went snorkeling when we arrived. There was a reef very nearby, but not many plants or fish at it. She also saw a 5 foot nurse shark.

The crew of Allie May came by on their dinghy having snorkeled at a further away reef. They promptly told their kids to get out of the water as there was a large bull shark in the area. That ended our plans for snorkeling here!

The weather was real nice for two more days then predicted to get windy with rain squalls. So rather than continue south and get stuck there, we decided to stay put for one day to enjoy the private anchorage and head back north the next day. Hard to believe it’s been a week with Sandy on board already; let’s do some laundry the old fashioned way in buckets! Agitating the wash with a plunger is kind of fun. The clothes dry fast in this sun and wind!

Enjoyed eating dinner on deck and having Sea Ya crew over in the evening to watch the sun go down.

We had a very long day sailing to windward the next day, 9-5 if I recall correctly. Lots of tacking in light winds and calm seas. We had hoped to go to Long Island, but ran out of daylight. Anchored south of Hog Cay Cut again with only one other boat. The next morning we left early, following the PDQ 36′ catamaran, Allie May through the winding cut. I was surprised to see them utilizing the western passage which is shallower and the way through unmarked on our Explorer chart. Unfortunately, they need less water than we do. Although we thought we had timed our departure right before high tide, it was actually several hours before and our rudder and stern were soon aground. We waited about an hour, then were able to gently pull off using an anchor we had dropped via dinghy.

We were not surprised to learn the rudder was once again off to one side making steering to starboard impossible. We were able to get back to the anchorage safely. Then we ate lunch. Anita emptied the aft cabin and Tom worked to re-center and re-pin the rudder. A more permanent fix is on our list for the next haul-out. The next day we waited until one hour before high tide, put our dagger boards down as an early warning for shallow water and followed the straighter eastern passage on the Explorer chart. Depths never read below 6 feet, we need a little less than 4. Yeah, we made it!

We raised the sails and enjoyed a quick downwind sail anchoring at Sand Dollar beach on Stocking Island.

yWe took a walk on the beach that afternoon and discovered a band of cruisers playing cool jazz music on our way back.

We left Tom there while Sandy and Anita went back to the boat to use the facilities and get drinks. Then Anita picked Tom up with the dinghy at sunset. This appears to be a weekly event that we hope to catch again!

The next day we motored over to volleyball beach to take in a solar seminar and then motored on to Goat Cay to hide from the wind and for Sandy to enjoy one last snorkel in this clear protected cove. No sharks here!We walked to Shirley’s at Fish Fry for lunch on Sunday. On February 11th we all shared a taxi to the airport. Sad to say good bye to Sandy, and thankful she made the trip! We were able to clear our replacement wind vane through Bahamian Customs. No problem retrieving it once we provided their receipt, our receipt and a copy of our cruising permit. We were also lucky to share a taxi back to the boat!

Hope you enjoyed sailing in the Exumas with us Sandy, you were a great guest. You definitely experienced the real cruising lifestyle. Yes, we really do get to maintain our boat in beautiful harbors. {Note from Tom: the alternator belt issue seems to be better. Update in the next blog. (Always keep them wanting more😎). }