George Town to Big Galliot Cay, Exumas 5/22-23/10
We left you after a pleasureable, if frustrating, stay in George Town
following our return from the Jumentos...
It was pleasurable, in that the crowds were thinning sharply - perhaps 20
boats left in the total population of Elizabeth Harbour, which encompasses 5
beaches, two shoreside anchorages, and three hurricane holes - leading to
peaceful nights and comfortable down time. While the activities and
cameraderie attendant to having hundreds of boats present in the harbor were
fun, we also love the solitude we found on our way into the Bahamas through
the Abacos this fall.
We accomplished a variety of boat chores along with the usual cleaning up
after salt spray (insidious and persistent, a marine lifestyle inevitably
has salt nearly everywhere) and general 1-2-3s, those small
attentions-to-detail which keep a boatyard visit, necessary from time to
time in order to get to the bottom of the boat in a dry condition, from
being a months-long affair. We also fueled our two gasoline jerry jugs, the
amount we'd used in our Honda Generator in 5 weeks, for our trip toward
This time we hoped to make it a gentle multi-hop run, rather than a dash as
has been the case in most of our travels, it seems, missing much of what
we'd have liked to have seen and done. Plus, we now have our KISS wind
generator in operation, which will keep the Honda use to a minimum, assuming
the winds pick up as they are supposed to do at this time of year, to
something more like the prevailing easterly trade winds, so we'll not have
to fuel nearly as often. Certainly, during sunny and breezy days, despite
our frequent (occasioned by all downtime in which we might not be doing
anything else) use of both computers and various miscellaneous small-battery
chargers, a large load when they're all in use, our solar and wind
generation easily keeps up with our load.
It was frustrating because part of the reason we'd stayed in George Town for
as long as we had was to wait for our initial shipment (start small, prove
the concept, then lay in supplies) of Spotless Stainless. After 13 business
days (the USPS promises international priority mail in 6-10 business days),
we reluctantly abandoned that effort, and made preparations to leave for
Conception Island is on the don't-miss list of every cruiser we've ever
talked to who have had the experience, so we were disappointed to see that
the winds were forecast for being a very difficult sail over. Conception
stands at about 60* east from Conch Cut, the exit at the top of Elizabeth
Harbour, the area between George Town and Stocking Island. As the forecast
was for 020-060* for the day, it had the potential for requiring a
dead-upwind motor all the way. As such, we reluctantly abandoned that,
because, ironically, it had the potential for a great point of sail to
follow our friends up the Exuma chain.
They'd left the day before, and had such a bash (head into wind with waves)
that they first had to do a lot of tacking, reducing their northward
progress, in order to proceed at all. As they'd just come from Comception
when arriving in George Town, they didn't want to go there again - but it
would have been a great sail for them yesterday, as the winds were nearly
due north. We were not only trapped in our little hole next to town (the
way out was too shallow to exit at low tide), we were waiting for the last
business day for our shipment before abandoning it, so we went back up to
Hamburger Beach after our final Honda gas run, the closest point on Stocking
Island for our departure.
They tucked into Rat Cay, which is as far as they could go reasonably that
day, and dropped us an email over Sailmail, the SSB HF radio link to the
email world, to tell us where they were. We'd set up a 10AM SSB contact for
today, which occurred as we were under way. Our conversation this morning
with Chris Parker, our weather guru, had revealed that not only would we
potentially have wind on our nose, there was the potential for exposed
anchoring in Conception as the wind went around later in the week, so we'd
made the decision to head up the Exuma chain. However, in our conversation
with our friends, they said that they'd been very rolly overnight, which
didn't warm our hearts much, as Galliot didn't look much different in terms
of protection. However, once inside, there were some options which might
have protected us, so we headed off that way.
If the wind went to 060, it would make our (mostly - there were a few jigs
and jogs once we were outside, in the Atlantic, as we hugged the islands'
coastline) 321* initial, and mostly 311*T (true, vs magnetic) heading a beam
reach. We'll have to catch Conception on the way down again in the fall, if
we can find enough periods without westerly winds, as there is no shelter
there in those conditions. So many places to visit, in the Bahamas, that
we've not seen yet, despite our (nominal - short last year, and short, so
far, this year) two visits here!
We sailed off our anchor in very light winds due to our sheltered location,
being under way at 8:30 AM. The under-10-knots wind gave us all of 3.5-4.0
knots VMG (velocity made good) as we worked our way through Conch Cut.
That, on our first visit to George Town, had been a real knucklebiter, as
there are coral heads all over, along with very shallow spots. However,
between the race around Stocking Island last year (northbound through Conch
Cut), where the race committee assured us that the Explorer Charts were
exactly correct for safe passage at any tide for our 7' draft, and our exit
last year, combined with Ray (the chartplotter which integrates to our
autopilot)'s faultless entry this year, we were entirely confident in using
those waypoints and rhumblines without nervously standing on the bow to
watch for danger.
So, aside from being slow going, the exit was uneventful. The further north
we got, the more the wind picked up, and we could see lots of whitecaps on
the ocean, promising sufficient wind for sailing once we were out there.
Sure enough, as we set our initial course of 321*T at 9AM, our apparent wind
was at 45* with 10-15 knots. 45* is a very close point of sail, but not
quite what you'd call beating, yet. We were making about 5 knots SOG to
start because Lydia had trimmed our sails initially quite loosely due to our
need for constant adjustment in heading as we came out through the twists
and turns of Conch Cut, so, initially we were still making our 3.5-4.0
progress. A careful trimming of the headsail revealed that we would have a
very tight genoa, but, in the end, all the telltales (the little pieces of
light nylon cloth which streamed with the wind, telling us how good the
airflow over the sail was at any point of adjustment) were tight against the
sail, pointing aft, and Flying Pig accelerated. Pulling in the main had a
However, of course, once outside, the waves were substantial in comparison
to the ripples we saw in the harbor, and that cut down our speed somewhat.
As well, all that sail tightening had put in a notable, though very
manageable, and, still efficient, heel of about 15* - and, due to our point
of sail, we were quartering into the seas. All the up-and-down reduces
forward motion, of course, so 5 knots was about all we'd do.
We were a bit concerned for our arrival at Galliot Cut, as, if we were after
about 4PM, we'd be facing an outgoing tide which, with the waves nearly
directly into its NE-facing entrance, would have very steep and choppy
waves. Our friends, about two hours or so ahead of us by virtue of their
starting point, didn't get under way until an hour later than we, but they
were still far enough ahead that we weren't able to hear them when they
tried responding to our hail at 10AM. However, the SSB was crystal clear -
about like being on the telephone - as we discussed our options.
They'd said that the further north we got, the more northeasterly the winds
became, which, for our point of sail, would be better. Sure enough, as we
turned onto our leg of 309*T, while we remained in a 30-60* (the variation
caused by the pitching making our wind indicator move relative to the boat's
direction) apparent wind direction, our speed increased to 5.5-6.0 knots.
The seas were plenty lumpy, and still basically on our starboard quarter,
but, with the tight sails, we didn't roll much at all. The skies were
brilliant, the wind was still mild but capable of power generation, so our
electrical system steadily replaced amps we had used. It was a great day to
11:15 saw a brief wind shift to further NE, allowing us to ease the sails a
bit, and Flying Pig stood up slightly, at only about 10* of heel, a more
comfortable position in the cockpit. So, even though the wind also dropped a
bit, in the 8-12 knot range, we maintained our speed, and, because the waves
were slightly less, managed to keep our apparent wind at about 45-60*. All
this sun and wind was producing a net increase of between 10-15 amps over
our usage, which warmed our heart considerably :**)) It could only get
better, too, as, due to our orientation, the solar panels were facing at the
opposite direction of angle to take advantage of the sun. As the day wore
on, eventually our direction of heel would work to our advantage, as the sun
moved from east to west.
By 12:30, the wind was picking up, but still a very nice sail. At 13-18
knots of apparent wind, still in our 45-60* angle to the wind, we sped ahead
(only in a sailboat does one think in terms of our 6.5-7.5 knots as
speeding!) into the increasing seas. Those produced a lot of spray, so we
dropped the starboard panel in our enclosure to keep out the salt entering
the cockpit, wetting our sport-a-seats (an articulated cushioned seat with
ratchets similar to what you'd see in the typical webbed-tube lounges which
fold up into a rectangle but allow a position from flat to
elevated-chest/lowered-foot attitude) on which we relax while on watch.
We've learned in the past that this point of sail is just about perfectly
balanced on Flying Pig with the sails trimmed to optimum performance. In
the event of a rudder failure, assuming it's just flopping and not locked to
one side or another, it's entirely possible to steer a sailboat by adjusting
sail trim. As it happened, somewhere along the way, our autopilot
That's an anomaly which seems to afflict all autopilots, for whatever
reason, and, if you're not paying attention, or don't hear the beeps which
accompany the event (we didn't in this case), it can result in some
excitement as the boat heads off in directions you'd not wanted, let alone
into danger. Let go long enough, it usually results in some scrambling to
get the boat back onto its proper course. However (we don't know) long it
had been before we'd noticed it, however, Flying Pig held exactly to her
course without all the constant little tweaks in direction which Otto (our
autopilot) usually does to keep us to our rhumbline.
As we went along, and the wind occasionally hit 20 knots, I wondered about
shortening sail, as our direction into the wind provided more heel than it
would with the apparent wind further aft, and our position, relatively close
to shore, though in about 100' of water, wouldn't allow us much room to run
downwind in the event of increasing conditions .
The conventional wisdom is "take in a reef when you first think of it" - but
a friend of ours has also provided a likewise useful mantra of "wait 15
minutes before you do anything". I monitored the wind and boat's
performance closely, and our level of heel remained very comfortable, so,
continuing close monitoring of the situation, I made the decison to leave it
as it was.
With the increase in wind, our speed occasionally flirted with 8 knots, so
our initial concern for timely arrival was relieved. By 1PM,. we had
advanced enough on our friends to reach them over VHF, so switched to that
form of communication rather than SSB. SSB and Ham (same radio) pulls 30
amps on transmission, whereas the VHF at high power only takes about 2 amps,
so, of course, that became our preference. They told us they were making
for Cave Cay Cut, the one below Galliot.
Our examination of the Explorer charts showed that cut to be very narrow in
comparison to the one at Galliot Cay, so we were a bit nervous about our
entry there. It also showed a Bahamas-normal circuitous route through the
shallows in order to get over Cave Cay's shallows into the Galliot
anchorage, albeit with levels only of serious concern at low tide. However,
as we'd have to enter Galliot Cut in a southwest direction, we'd have to
come further north relative to the entrance than we would for Cave Cay's
entrance, making the wanderings only add perhaps a half mile to our net
distance. In any case, they'd be there before we were, and they'd advise us
of the realities before we had to make that decision.
As the afternoon progressed, we noted that we were very quickly catching up
with a catamaran ahead of us and further out than we. In the, by this time,
mostly beam seas, they were rolling mercilessly, and our stomachs ached for
them. With our stiffening sails, although it was impressive to see the waves
advance on us, over our heads, in the cockpit, the waves passed under us
without much more than a rise and fall without their stomach-lurching motion
that the cat was experiencing.
Because catamarans don't point (go upwind) as well as monohulls, usually,
due to their typically shallow draft (the deeper the keel, the more
resistance to sideways movement against the pressure of the wind on the
sails), even though catamarans are notably faster in some points of sail,
and would normally "leave us in the dust" (their wake, of course, in
nautical terms), we steadily gained on them. We later learned, as they ended
up in the same anchorage with us, that they'd "cheated" and used their port
engine to overcome the slide, not only providing propulsion, but helping to
keep the bow into the wind.
Eventually, we did pass them, and they moved inside of us to our stern.
Lydia was concerned that they might actually be on a collision course as we
were overtaking them, and, being starboard of us, and, in any case, the
overtaken vessel, had right of way, but our angle from them constantly
increased, while their distance from us decreased only marginally, and,
despite being relatively close to us as we passed them, they did, indeed,
only cross our path by the time they were about a half-mile astern.
At about the same time, we had a small sprinkling of rain. That was both
welcomed and frustrating, because it wasn't enough water to rinse off all
the salt we'd been accumulating as we bashed along. Little did we know...
Our friends had entered Cave Cay Cut about 1:30 and reported that the seas,
while impressive until one got close to the cut, once in it, they settled
down immediately. As the wind was building a bit, along with the seas
building notably (still only 4-6', but plenty enough to be lumpy and a wet
ride), we debated whether to continue on to Galliot Cut, with its 500-foot
wide entrance, or enter Cave Cay Cut, which was very narrow, but would get
us out of the waves just that much sooner. They reported that Cave Cay had a
very rolly anchorage, and so went up to the inset in Galliot which we
referred them to as more likely to be settled. Seeing not less than 10'
anywhere on their way, we elected for Cave Cay Cut.
About 2:30, we arrived at the waypoint for that entrance, and prepared to
drop the sails. Ordinarily, we'd have sailed through the entrance, but as
narrow as that cut was, we didn't want the possibility for a sudden gust to
push us on to the rocks and shallows which lined the entrance. So, despite
the building seas, we turned into the wind slightly to allow us to roll in
the genoa. As lumpy as it was out there, particularly without the steadying
influence of the sails, I put on my harness and clipped into my jack line
for the exercise. Getting the genoa in was very straightforward, with a nice
tight wrap. However...
Just about the time I went forward to the mast to take down the mainsail, it
started to rain. Oops! Squall! We learned, once at anchor, that the
catamaran, not far behind, saw us preparing to stow the sails just as they
saw the squall approaching, giving them pause :**)) Much higher winds, much
rollier seas, and Lydia fought to keep Flying Pig headed upwind, a much more
efficient direction for bringing the main down in an orderly fashion.
As I was concentrating on flaking (neatly stacking, made more difficult by
the folks mentioned in a prior log who totally ignored my instructions on
how to rig the hardware on our new sail, resulting in giant folds) the main,
I really didn't notice, other than that the boom was swinging wildly, and I
was getting very wet. Being tightly secured to the mast by the tether on my
harness being wrapped around the mast, limiting my lateral movement to only
a few inches, I wasn't concerned, but Lydia told me later that she was
afraid I might be launched during one of our lurches :**))
As I was dressed in my bathing suit, and the weather was warm, it was of no
concern to me, and a welcome wash to the deck and hardware which had
collected all that salt! :**)) However, the now-slack-and-extended reefing
lines, as they were flailing about with the boom movement occasioned by all
the rolling we were experiencing, caught on winches and the boom crutch,
eventually trapping the boom from swinging with the wind, so the last couple
of flakes weren't tidy, being pushed by the wind against the lazy jacks
instead of coming down smoothly.
Worse, we were unable to put the boom in the crutch on releasing the topping
lift (the line which lifts it out of the crutch, but which, under sail, as
the pressure of the sail raises the boom, is entirely loose). That, too,
proved a momentary nuisance, as our lazy jacks, part of our Mack Pack sail
cover system, easily held the boom off the bimini even when the sheet was
tightened securely. So, the boom just rested aside of the boom crutch
frame, pulled into it by the sheet and held up by the jacks. I'd deal with
all the lines mess when we were at anchor, and reflake the last couple of
sections of sail.
The passage through the cut was as advised, if a bit nervous due to the
constrained width. Just in as the passage approaching Black Point last
year, however, the depths were substantial, reassuring us as we saw the
rocks pass close by. At that, with our motoring speed and the still-incoming
tide, we were making well over 8 knots SOG through the choke point.
Before we'd dropped the sails, we'd put in waypoints to make our way up to
Galliot, and, true to our friends' reports, we saw even more depth on our
chosen lines than they had seen. Despite the protection of Galliot, there
was a very nice breeze coming over the island, maintaining our wind
generation capacity. We had our anchor down in about 12' of water at close
to full tide by 3:45PM. As nearly everywhere in the Bahamas that we've
experienced, the holding was great, and the anchor bit immediately. My
usual run-out-a-bit-and-jerk further set the chain, and we backed down hard
on 100' in the water, stretching our snubber as Flying Pig curtseyed.
Once secured in our calm anchorage, straightening out the reefing lines was
a simple matter. Once off all the tanglements, it allowed me to free up the
boom and put a little tension on the topping lift, clearling the boom crutch
again. Now that the boom was swinging freely above the crutch, aligning the
sail with the lazy jacks, it was a simple matter to raise the sail slightly
to correct the last few flakes which had fouled on the way down and we were
quickly buttoned up with the sail cover over our main, protecting it from UV
exposure, the quickest form of death for most sails.
We'd already reached "full" on our battery monitor by that time, but that's
a bit deceiving, as it doesn't report 95%, reserving the 5% increments for
lower than 90%. So, in fact, we were still about 80 AH (amp-hours) down from
truly "full" - but by the time we returned from our social call to our
friends on Bold Endeavour at 7:30, we were up to 58AH deficit. We'd maintain
that level overnight, sleeping comfortably in the breeze. By the time we
return from our explorations today, we'll be well and truly full.
The morning dawned brightly, if with diminished winds, and, as I write,
we're about to go explore some of the possible hunting grounds in the area.
There's an exposed sandbar to our south, promising for conch based on our
previous experiences, and a potential for some reef exploration between
Galliot and Farmer's Cay. There may be too much current running through
there, as it's still in full flow, high not being for another 4 hours or so,
but, we'll see.
As this is my usual-longwindedness in action, I'll leave you here in the
brilliant sunshine, moderate (about 10 knots) breeze and only slightly rolly
anchorage. As a reminder to those of you seeing this after the fact (the
log list gets them timely, via our winlink mail to my son, who posts them to
the log directly), if you'd like to see them in real time, click the
yahoogroups link below and sign on.
Once we get back into internet range, I'll put these up into the couple of
other places which receive them as web-based forum postings. Because that
will likely be relatively soon, those not on the log list interested in
seeing our track will probably be able to see the satellite-based SPOT
transmitter's locations at tinyurl.com/FlyingPigSpot. It will open in a
"map" view, but if you switch to either satellite or hybrid views, you'll be
able to see the sand bars we have to avoid. Of course, you'll also see the
wanderings we did during our sail-drop :**))
Until next time, Stay Tuned!
Skip and crew, comfortably at anchor in Galliot Cay's lee at 23*
Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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"You are never given a wish without also being given the power to
make it come true. You may have to work for it however."
"There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in
its hand. You seek problems because you need their gifts."
(Richard Bach, in Illusions - The Reluctant Messiah)