Ahoy from Emerald Bay in the Exumas!
I've got a lot to cover in this log. Let's see, where to start...Going hard aground, James Bond or the parts...Hum, I'll save the most interesting for last.
The mail boat arrived at Staniel Cay on Wednesday night and first thing on Thursday morning we set out in search of our parts. We headed to the government dock to find it full of parts and supplies (most labeled "Keep Refrigerated" and were sitting in the sun.) However, there wasn't anything for us. After checking with some locals we found out that we needed to find Vivian and she was supposed to be in the first house past the bridge near the airport. We set off looking for Vivian and we found a store near there. Inside we found Vivian and our part. We had to pay shipping...$1...Wow, what a deal! We headed back to the boat and I quickly installed the stator and pulled the starter cord. The engine coughed to life and all was good. We prepared the boat for departure and pulled out of the marina.
We headed to mouth of Pipe Creek, which was about a mile N of the marina. It had very good protection from the N and W, which was important as a squall was predicted during the night. Unicorn anchored nearby and then we headed in to a beach cookout put on by a local charity. The hamburgers were as good as anything we had had elsewhere and the view was amazing with crystal blue water that just mesmerized me.
Later that afternoon we headed over to the Thunderball Grotto, which is where the James Bond movie titled "Thunderball" was filmed in part. The grotto is a huge rock dome inside of a small island just N of the Staniel Cay marina. You swim through a small opening and then you enter into the grotto. The dome is probably 50' wide and 30' high. Light filters in through several holes in the ceiling and the water glows blue with light coming in from several underwater openings. It's really cool and I think that I'll rent Thunderball when we get back home. It definitely a must-see. Diane, from s/v Unicorn had to be coaxed to snorkel into the grotto and she was really happy to have gone in.
The forecasted squalls didn't come through and we all had a good nights sleep. The next morning (Friday the 13th) we were headed S. The winds were good for sailing and they were predicted to swing more southerly in a day, so we wanted to make some good miles. At 8:30 we pulled up the anchor and headed out of the anchorage. The sun was directly in my eyes, but the Maptech charts showed that I had plenty of water (14'+). Sue is normally on the bow watching for obstructions, but she had gone down below to wash her hands. I noted the water getting lighter and started turning around and suddenly we went from 4 kts to 0 kts in less than a second and with a loud bang. The starboard (right) side of the boat was a good foot out of the water and the engine didn't even begin to move us.
I threw my snorkel gear on and jumped in the water to see what had happened. We had run up on an old rock/dead-coral ledge and the keel was sitting atop the ledge. If I had kept going straight we would have missed it, but I managed to find the highest spot. We called to s/v Unicorn and BJ jumped into his dinghy to help get us off. He pushed on the stern and we didn't move a bit.
BlueJacket has a 6' wide wing keel and having the boat rest on the keel would be very bad. The tidal range on this day was about 3.5' and there was probably about 2.5' of tide left to drop. We were mid-tide on a falling tide, which meant that we were loosing water fast and if I didn't get the boat off soon, we would be stuck for a long time. I put our dinghy into the water to get the weight off the stern and to provide more horse power. I started pushing from the bow and BJ pushed from the stern and slowly BlueJacket started to rotate. Little by little we moved her back and forth and finally she slid off the mound and we were free! All of this took about an hour, during which we lost about 8" of water. I wouldn't have bet that we would have gotten her off, but we did. An inspection of the boat didn't reveal any damage. I'd say that we got off easily!
After our hour delay we once again headed out through the cut giving wide berth to the shoal that I "found." We had a wonderful sail down the coast and we ended up at Lee Stocking Island which is the home to the Caribbean Research Center and also the highest point in the Exumas (39 meters). Unfortunately the research center was closed as I would have loved to visited it.
The cold front that just dropped 7" of snow on Milwaukee and brought a nor'easter to the east coast is forecast to blow through the area on Sunday night. I really didn't want to be in George Town with 130 other boats. I have faith in my anchoring technique and I've heard way too many stories about boats dragging into one another in George Town. There's a marina associated with the Four Seasons at Emerald Bay, so we decided to stop in there and wait out the storm.
The marina isn't finished yet and if you ask for a slip with no power, you can get it for $0.75/ft. If you want power, it's $2.25/ft (or $3.50/ft if your yacht is over 100'). We went for the cheap seats and pulled into a beautiful marina constructed to top notch US standards. Wow, what a difference when compared to Staniel Cay! The marina provides free laundry and Sue took full advantage doing about 6 loads late into the night. Their RO water is also only $0.15/gallon compared to $0.50/gallon elsewhere. Did I mention floating docks!?! Ah, the things that make a cruiser happy. :-)
The bay next to the marina is named Flamingo Bay, but Emerald Bay would be a much better name. The water is emerald green is provides a dazzling backdrop to the white sand beaches. To simply call this "lovely" would be an understatement.
Anyhow, the cold front should blow through here tonight and then tomorrow we should be able to leave for George Town where I'll retrieve the laptop memory and camera polarizer that I had shipped in. Then it's on to points south.
-- Geoff & Sue
For the cruiser:
Don't trust the Maptech charts. I've found LOTS of places where they're wrong. Before going aground all of these locations were shifting sandbars and one might expect them to be wrong. In this case it was hard rock and the survey was just wrong. The Explorer Charts provide much more accurate detail.
We anchored just WSW of the cut between Staniel Cay and Little Majors Spot. The chart shows "poor holding". We were able to get well anchored after 3 attempts, but 2 boats with Bruce anchors couldn't get them to set at all. They anchored just N in Pipe Creek in sand.
At Lee Stocking Island we anchored in 10' of water over clear sand at about 23-46.2N 76-06.7W. There's lots of current and during the night we had the anchor chain riding on the hull when the wind and current matched on another. Next time I think that I would head to Leaf Cay and anchor there.
If you have a chance to go to the Marina at Emerald Bay, do so! It'll make your crew happy! You can't beat the rates and the facilities are top notch.
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