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Compass Cay and Black Point Settlement

Having topped off our fuel tanks the day before at Staniel Cay Yacht Club, on January 18th we brought up the anchor and set sail eight miles or so north to Compass Cay, a harbor known for its nurse sharks.  Chuck and Chris wanted to swim with them.  I wanted to get in the water with them as well, but moderate pain in my lower stomach at the site of a previous surgery was to prevent me from doing so. That pain has since disappeared but for almost a week it drove me nuts so I neglected to sit the excursion out.

Note:  Staniel Cay Yacht Club is not a yacht club at all, but a restaurant/bar/fuel dock.

The motor up to Compass Cay was uneventful.  We anchored out from the relatively shallow harbor.  The boys dropped the anchor and made the mile or so dinghy ride into the marina there.  I fished under crystal clear skies and in gin clear water…not a bite.

A couple of hours later the guys returned with great stories of their visit with the most gentle nurse sharks.

We upped anchor and headed back south to Black Point Settlement, the trip took a couple of hours and was less than twenty nautical miles.  By 1515 hours the anchor was back down.  Black Point Settlement is touted as the second most populated place in the Exumas, behind Georgetown.  We will take their word for it, we never left the boat…for the next morning we were headed out to Georgetown.

 

Georgetown

January 19th at 0830 hours we pulled anchor and headed to Georgetown.  Black Point Settlement is where we jumped over from the shallow Exuma flats on the east side of the Exumas, to the much deeper Exuma Sound on the west.

I put out a fishing line and then went below and read for much of the eight hour or so trip on down to Georgetown, 53 nautical miles.  An hour or so before our arrival I went topsides and found my line had been taken in.  I put it back out and within a few minutes got a huge strike.  One that snapped my line and took my lure.  Bummer.

We were happy to get to Georgetown.  Georgetown is the most populated area in the Exumas, an international airport, grocery stores, fuel, medical clinic, etc.  We were happy to get there for two reasons: my stomach pain was still in play and somehow Chuck had twisted his right knee…there was medical service in Georgetown.  Since arriving in Georgetown my stomach pain, and Chuck’s knee resolved.

Our arrival at St. Elizabeth’s Harbor behind Stocking Island was uneventful, by 1630 hours our anchor was down just off of the Chat and Chill, a local hangout for cruisers, a bar and grill located on the beach.  No sooner than the anchor was set a dinghy from the ketch behind us motored up and welcomed us to the harbor, Art and Allyson.  It was a great greeting, somewhat typical of the locations we’ve been to so far.  Art and wife were headed off the next day to the Turks and Caicos Islands; a day, night, and another day sail south. 

Just before dark we dropped the dinghy and motored to the beach for a grilled meal of fresh Mahi Mahi, slaw, and French fries…and a celebratory beer or two.

Georgetown was somewhat of a milestone mark for us.  It is traditionally the jumping off point for those headed on south to Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic for cruisers headed for the eastern Caribbean, of which we were one.  The multiple anchorages in and around Georgetown are known, at least in the cruiser’s guides, as Chicken Harbor or Turnaround Harbor.  The name is based on the fact that many cruisers bent on going further south into the Caribbean chicken out and turnaround here.  Instead, they go back north or east and flush their plans to go south into the more challenging weather and seas…either staying in the Bahamas or even heading back to the states.  Our plans were not to turn around.

It’s easy to get attached to this area.  The harbors and anchorages are protected from bad weather for the most part, there is virtually anything one might want in the nature of boat provisioning and such, friendly locals and cruisers, and generally just a cool place.  They have an active cruiser’s net on every morning at 0800 hours on VHF 72 with any information one might need.  According to that net, there were roughly 165 boats in the harbor as of this morning.  That changes daily as new boat arrive and depart daily…mostly arriving for the Cruisers Regatta…ten days of festivities.

After removing the starboard stern rail from our boat and having it repaired on the second day there, we’ve just kicked back and enjoyed the area.  Our friends Rod and Joe arrived a couple of days ago and that was a lot of fun.  Joe’s vessel, SV Happy Destiny, left this morning.  It will probably be the last time we see them for quite a while.  Their plans were never to go much further south than Georgetown.  Today they were headed east to Long Island and then more or less north through the Eleutheras and then even further north to the Abacos…before eventually heading back to the States. 

We met Rod and Janet on our Cuba trip where they were on their boat…just great people.  Then we ran into Rod in Bimini where he was crewing for his friend Joe, the owner of Happy Destiny.  Since then, we hop-scotched around them several times, running into them in Nassau, Leaf Cay, Staniel Cay, and here in Georgetown.  Just a lot of fun to be around them both.

As uneventful and laid back as the area of Georgetown has been we did have one near miss of sorts.  On Monday night most of the Stocking Island crowd cleared out to other anchorages in anticipation of winds gusting to the 50-60 knot range.  We stayed, feeling we had good holding.  Initially, we did.  The winds and seas never piped up to the range that was forecast in this area, but they did blow consistently in the 20-25 knot range with the occasional gust to 30 on Monday afternoon.  Late that same afternoon the winds seemed to be decreasing.  After a vigilant afternoon we retired below decks for dinner and a movie.

As the rather crappy movie was ending and the credits rolling, just after good dark, we checked our anchor…all appeared well and the boat was riding good on the hook.  But, a mere few minutes later we were somewhat shocked to feel the boat bumping off the bottom.  We were aground.

Going into major overdrive, we quickly ascertained the anchor had let go and we were dragging in 6’5” feet of water…we draw 6’8”…and we were beam to the seas…not good.  Starting the engine and using the anchor windless and bow thruster to get our bow into the seas, we manage very quickly to get off of the shoal and back out in the harbor to reset our anchor.  It was a very exciting twenty minutes or so, however.  When we got the anchor up it turns out that it was one big mass of sea grass and muck. 

We reset our anchor considerably further out in the harbor, with more scope.  We also established an anchor watch with someone in the cockpit for the remainder of the night.  Even so, we dragged anchor a second time around 0100 hours…about sixty feet it dragged before it set itself.  The winds never got above about 35 knots.

We actually foresaw this possible anchor drag scenario and Chuck and I discussed moving the boat further out from the beach earlier in the day, however, we decided to forego the exercise and PITA of moving.  After all, we’d held anchor in much stronger winds and seas in Staniel Cay, we thought to ourselves.  Well, live and learn, we won’t make the same mistake again of, truthfully, being too lazy to give ourselves adequate sea room should our anchor drag.  Life’s a carnival…

Our plans are to reprovision our boat over the weekend and refuel.  At the first weather window, we anticipate continuing south, most probably, to the Dominican Republic.  We will see.

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