If you don't know where we are, join the club. I had no idea where Andros island was before I started planning this trip. If you want to see a map of where we are, please go to http://www.GeoffSchultz.org/ and select "click here to see our location." We're anchored off a series of tiny chunks of rock which are about 25 miles south of Andros island. We made it here 2 days ago after our passage from the Cay Sal Banks.
The passage from Anguilla Cay was uneventful. We left at around 4 PM and headed almost due east to the Grand Bahama Bank which was about 25 miles away. The bank starts out at about 24 feet and works its way down to about 12 feet. We crossed onto the bank at about 10 PM and began a 70 mile trek across what's known as Hurricane Flats. I have no idea why it's named that, but I wouldn't want to be there during a hurricane! This is a huge sand bank that we hoped didn't have any coral heads on it. I've never crossed it before, but I've crossed other banks and they were coral head free. The problem is that at night you can't see the coral heads and running into one with a 25,000 pound boat at 6 kts is not a good idea. Bad things would happen.
During the night we had thunderstorms pop up all around us and we had to dodge them. The bad news is that meant that it had gotten cloudy and it's hard to see coral heads when it's cloudy. Based upon my plan, at around 10 AM we would arrive at an area where the charts indicated that the coral heads began to appear and by then we'd have enough light to see any obstructions. Luck was on our side and the skies began to clear in the AM. We were a bit late arriving, which was good as there was still a lot of glare on the water. As expected, we had to dodge a lot of patch reefs over the next 25 miles, but we made it through unscathed. Mother nature even provided a free boat wash that we went through to clean off all of the salt that had been splashed on BlueJacket.
Mid-afternoon we anchored behind a tiny chunk of rock named South Cay and went for a snorkel by the boat. There wasn't much to see, but it felt great. The following morning we went out exploring and snorkeling. We were quite disappointed at the condition of the coral. Probably 70% of the coral was dead. In an area this remote I can't believe that it's due to human causes. A report that I read on the area pointed to high water temperature as the cause. Yet another data point for global warming. We also got our first exposure to the currents in the Bahamas. The water absolutely rips through channels around the islands. You have to be careful not to get sucked out through these channels. However, entering the stream on an incoming current gives you one heck of a ride!
In the afternoon I wanted to check out a new setup for my underwater camera so we headed to another patch reef. Note that we had plenty of patch reefs to choose from. As we pulled up a 3' reef shark swam over and circled the dinghy. Sue wasn't overly happy. It swam away and I jumped in with my camera housing. As I swam to a deep spot the shark cruised by, completely ignoring me. When I returned to the dinghy Sue put the camera into the housing and then snorkeled above me as I tried out my new flash setup. I was impressed that she got in! It took a bit of talking on my part, but from what we've been told, sharks are very common here. Unless you're spear fishing they tend to ignore you. Oh, did I mention that we had lobster for dinner...
The edge of the reef was about 1.5 miles out to sea from South Cay, which is a healthy distance in a dinghy in the middle of nowhere. I noted that Saddle Back Cay was about 6 miles away and the edge of the reef was only 0.8 miles away from it. The charts made it look like there weren't many obstructions between the two cays. When we started out the sky was completely clear. Within half of an hour huge thunderstorms had formed around us and the sun disappeared. On top of that the charts were way wrong and there were tons of patch reefs to dodge. The lack of sunlight made it quite challenging and at one point we ended up in 7' of water with coral heads all around! Yikes! I got us out of there and we worked BlueJacket around to Pigeon Cay which is just N of Saddle Back Cay. We dropped our hook in 9' of wonderful sand where it stuck like a champ. The thunderstorms banged all around us and one washed the boat down. I didn't get to dive as the weather was very unsettled, but I hope to get out to the edge of the reef tomorrow.
In a day or two we're going to head N and we'll end up on the mainland of Andros. We'll keep you posted.
-- Geoff & Sue
For the cruiser:
Our route was:
23-25.27N 78-57.06W Edge of Grand Bahama Bank
23-17.42N 77-40.61W Turn and start of coral heads
23-25.74N 77-29.26W Between sand bores
23-32.09N 77-20.30W Turn to anchorage
23-34.75N 77-20.61W Anchorage
0) We used the Navionics Gold 905 chart chip which was very accurate.
1) There are lots more patch reefs S and W of South Cay than the charts show.
2) We anchored in 14' of water behind South Cay in sea grass in sand. I had to set the anchor by hand, but holding was good.
3) I had to move the Navionics chart 1168' S and 829' W to get it to line up, but you're doing visual navigation anyhow.
4) The chart should be labeled "Scattered patch reefs throughout area" to the N and S of the west side of South Cay.
5) The area to the W of Saddle Back Cay should be labeled as one huge patch reef. You need to be a mile W of the cay to clear the patch reefs.
Log ID: 857
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