It’s Sunday morning and we are anchored in a snug little harbor near Compass Cay, one of our favorite spots in the Exumas. The last few days have been a bit “different” as we have been struggling with a number of issues that have made things somewhat challenging.
As has been the case for much of this winter, here in the Bahamas, the strong cold fronts that have been lashing the US East Coast, have been causing havoc with the weather here in the Exumas as well. When I say “havoc”, it’s fair to say that it’s a relative term compared with “real” winter weather such as those in New England have been enduring.
However, here on a small boat in the Bahamas, wind is king and the “king” has been throwing his weight around plenty this season. The problem is that when a cold front comes down off of the south east US coast, the normal easterly trade winds are disrupted as the front passes through the area. When this happens, the prevailing winds give way to winds that clock toward the southwest, west, northwest and then settle into a north wind following the passage of the front.
What this means is that just about everyone in the Bahamas must run for cover as most anchorages are only protected from winds with an easterly component. So, a few days ago, Chris Parker, the weather router that we use, was forecasting strong westerly winds that would persist for at least a day, perhaps longer. Nearly everyone listens to him so when he says “run for cover” that’s exactly what they do.
We did too, and Pandora had to find a spot with good protection from the west. We chose Cambridge Cay as our “safe harbor”. This anchorage, and it’s a pretty big one, is on the southern end of the Exumas Land and Sea Park, one of the environmentally protected areas of the Bahamas. When we got here on Wednesday there were plenty of boats and by the time the west winds kicked in, and kicking they were, there were more than 30 boats sitting it out.
The strong winds really filled in on Friday morning and peaked with gusts near 30kts for much of the day. Believe me, that’s a lot of wind. Just a bit less than “gale” conditions, actually. Overnight things finally calmed down and shifted to the north where they are expected to remain for the next day or so. It was very good that we were in sheltered waters as the surf was pounding in any west facing anchorage and it would have been very uncomfortable, or worse, to be on an exposed shore.
I can’t say that it was pleasant hearing the wind roaring for two days but at least the anchorage was fairly calm. We had been invited to have dinner aboard a friend’s boat at the other end of the harbor, perhaps ľ of a mile away, but we opted to stay aboard Pandora as getting over to our friend’s boat would have meant getting splashed plenty on the run over. And, to get soaked on our way home after a few glasses of wine didn’t seem like a particularly good way to end the day.
Last winter we had a similar situation when we visited friends when the wind was blowing very hard and by the time we got back to Pandora following dinner, Brenda and I both had to strip in the cockpit and jump into the shower to get rid of all the salt. We were drenched.
We decided we didn’t want a repeat performance so Brenda and I opted to stay aboard. We did and enjoyed some of Brenda’s fresh baked peasant bread, cheese and wine. Actually, a bit too much wine but I won’t get into that right now.
Speaking of technical problems (how’s that for a segue?), we have been using Brenda’s iPad as a key navigation device here in the Bahamas as the charts that are in my dedicated helm plotter doesn’t show enough detail for the Bahamas. Our solution is to use the iPad loaded with a suite of charts and navigation software in addition to the paper chart books that we keep handy as well.
In any event, the iPad died unexpectedly a few days ago which freaked us out. Unlike in the US, there are no buoys or other aids to navigation so knowing where you are at any given time can be a bit challenging, especially when you are surrounded by many low lying islands that all look the same. Yes, we can get around with paper charts and careful plotting but it’s a lot easier more comfortable with the iPad open as a reference. I always feel better if I am sure I am where I think I am.
On top of being a key source of navigation information, we also use the iPad for e-mail access. So, here we were with no way to fix the iPad and now way to connect to the Internet. Fortunately, our friend Joe on Onward, who we have known for a number of years, came to the rescue and offered for me to use his e-mail to order a new iPad. Simple enough, right?
Yes and no… Unfortunately, the signal strength in this area is pretty weak so getting online was a challenge. After messing around with Amazon.com for a bit, I was able to order a new iPad and arrange to have it shipped to Ft Lauderdale to an airfreight company. From there (for a fee) the would fly it in to Staniel Cay.
Sounds simple, if not inexpensive. Right? Not so fast Bob. Inadvertently, I ordered the WRONG model and it would not work for navigation or e-mail aboard Pandora. No problem, just cancel the order. Not so easy… I wasn’t able to cancel the order as I lost the signal at the “critical moment” and the “wrong” package shipped in spite of my best efforts. Bummer.
Well, that was Thursday. On Friday Joe let me visit again and order the correct item, this time from the Apple Store, and now that package too, is winging it’s way to Florida. Somehow I have to be sure that the folks in FL are able to identify which is the “wrong” iPad and send it back. Let’s hope that they get it right or I will be the owner of two new iPads, one right and one WRONG. Yikes!
So, later next week we will have a new iPad flown into Staniel Cay and we should be back in business. I won’t even talk about what sort of import duties I will have to pay on this. If items are defined as “ship’s stores” or “equipment”, there isn’t duty to be paid but I am fearful that customs will define the iPad differently and charge me 40% of the value to bring it in. And that’s on top of the cost of flying it in from Ft Lauderdale. It’s going to be expensive, that’s for sure. However, I have been told that computers are imported “duty free”. Let’s hope that they are right.
Anyway, this is a long way of saying that the last few days, here in paradise, haven’t felt so “paradisal”. However, after a rum punch, things always seem better.
Yesterday, after moving here to Compass Cay, Brenda and I did a bit of beach combing as the tide went out. This area is particularly shallow so much of it is dry at low tide. As a result, the shelling is really terrific. We had a wonderful time walking all over the flats picking up shells. We got a particularly colorful haul.
It’s interesting how different the shells are depending on what are of the Bahamas you are collecting in. The haul was particularly colorful.
Along the way we spied a really big ray. This fish, which looks like a giant black round rubber disk, was over 5′ wide. I also saw a very pretty little shark, about 3′ long that swam right by me, only a few feet away.
The sandbars are such a lovely contrast to the deeper blue water. Very pretty in the afternoon light.
Each day I listen to a group “Cruiseheimers” on the SSB radio for news on what’s going on and where folks are on their boats. This “net” operates each day at 08:30 in the morning. Interestingly, “Cruiseheimers” has this name as it’s designed to help cruisers who forget which day of the week it is after months aboard, keep their bearings. Actually, if it weren’t for this group, we would not have known that today was the beginning of Daylight Savings Time. The idea is that folks who live onboard end up contracting a case of “cruiseheimers”. Get it?
One nice thing about this group is that it gets many boats on a single channel at the same time each day so you can find out where your fiends are. Today our friends, Maureen and Bill on Kaluna Moo, who are currently in Puerto Rico, about 700 miles away, asked to talk to us. We switched to a different channel and had a nice chat. We hope to connect with them in April as they make their way north from their time in the Caribbean. Maureen really took Brenda under her wing last winter as we muddled through our first winter in the Bahamas. It will be fun to see them again.
Today it’s a beautiful day here in Compass Cay. Our plans are for us to head to the Compass Cay Marina, that’s on a private island. For a fee, $10 per person, we will be able to have the run of the island. I understand that it’s very pretty. Should be fun.
Lastly, this post is low on pictures as I had to send it via SSB radio, as our web access is zip (recall no iPad?). I sent this to our son Christopher who did the post for us. Thanks Chris.