Big Galliot to Little Farmers Cays, Exumas 5/23-25/10
We left you comfortably anchored in the lee of Big Galliot Cay, after an
exhilarating trip from Georgetown, trailing our Kiwi buddies on Bold
Endeavour. Lydia and I jumped in our faithful PortaBote and headed around
the corner to what the charts showed as potentially promising reefs at the
top end of Little Farmers, but found that with the surf and the tide running
as high tide approached, it would be difficult to explore that area. In any
event, the water color suggested it was mostly rock, but the southwestern
shore of Big Guana Cay, in the cut between the islands, looked promising.
That area proved to be, on examination by doing at-idle donuts over areas of
interest, full of very interesting coral outcroppings. The slick provided
by the stern of the boat as it circled allowed us to see the bottom as
though we'd had a mask or glass-bottom-bucket. No reef, but lots of very
colorful coral. We resolved to come tomorrow at slack tide to explore it
Just as we were completing our survey, in pulls another boat, to the
anchorage marked on the charts, even though it's in a channel. Truth be
known, there's no way a sailboat could get between the islands,
unless it had a only a couple of feet's draft, so it's not like they were in
the way. As well, the area there was so shallow between the islands that
while there was a current, it wasn't notable, so of no challenge to
It turned out to be Willow, a boat we knew from before, and they were
frequent visitors to this spot. They advised us that they'd been able to
fish right off their boat, in the past, and had experienced great luck
spearing grouper, snapper and others, along with lionfish, a scourge
developing in the Bahamas, right in the area. They are predatory fish,
taking over areas, and, to boot, poisonous. However, they use gloves and a
scissors to cut off their poisonous spines, and report great eating. As it
turns out, we have yet to see a single lionfish, but the Bahamians encourage
any and all kills, whether eaten or discarded, due to their slow eradication
of other fish in the areas they are found.
Low tide was forecast for mid-day, so we resolved to go snorkeling to see
what we could see. As yet, I have not had a spear in my hand underwater, but
Willow's reports were promising, so I put our folding spear into the Bote
with our snorkeling gear in anticipation.
As is frequently the case, sloth prevented getting an early start on the
day, but it was of no event, since the expected slack wasn't until much
later in the day. However, in a long chat prompted by another boat hailing
us, and my giving them information on places to see on the way south, we had
a "break" - verbal interruption to ask to be included in the conversation -
from Willow, who'd heard us talking to Desdemona (named after the Jimmy
Buffet song). They advised that the tide had turned and they were going to
be getting into the water immediately.
As that wasn't even 11AM, it was a bit of a hurry-up for us, but we quickly
got under way to the spot only a few hundred yards away from our anchorage.
In fact, we beat Willow into the water, but found the area the best we'd
experienced so far, in terms of sheer beauty. There weren't a profusion of
fish as has been the case in some of the places we'd visited, and no reef,
but reasonably separated clumps of very interesting corals. Being low tide,
in fact, there were some spots I had to go around rather than over, unlike
the previous evening when what we saw as we circled above, where everything
was well under us.
In addition, as is frequently the case in rocky shores, the area immediately
at the shore was like a mini-wall dive. The area had canyons and hills of
sand, and about in the center, where Willow had thrown out their grapple
dinghy anchor, yet another area of beautiful corals. From the shore side, it
was a short trip over a gully, up a steep hill nearly to the surface, and
then a much steeper decline into 15-20' of water.
Diving (I wear weights to make me very nearly neutral bouyant at the
surface; when I get a few feet down, the air in my lungs compresses, and I
have a slight negative bouyancy, making it effortless to stay down and
cruise) to those corals revealed rather more fish in the crystal-clear
water, with the bottom very well illuminated by the relatively high sun.
Lydia had the underwater camera, so I didn't get any pictures, but it was a
real gas to look up and see small schools of colorful fish above me, framed
by the nearly-still surface, looking like the sky.
Willow "cheated" - wearing wetsuits and dive tanks, so stayed down the
entire time. I have no idea whether they found any fish which might be
targets for the presumed spears they were carrying, but I'd seen nothing to
warrant getting my folding spear out of its case. By the time our Kiwi
buddies arrived, we were a bit chilled, and peckish to boot, so we headed
back to Flying Pig to get warmed up and have lunch.
The day looked absolutely gorgeous - usable breeze for sailing, and
brilliant sunshine, so after our traveling companions had their lunch, we
sailed off our anchor at 2:45, under way for Little Farmers Cay, another
spot highly recommended in the Explorer Charts, and, even though we expected
no unsettled weather, good shelter from the prevailing winds.
Our first course was just to clear the shallows in the area, so our 292*T
heading quickly gave way to our primary heading of 262*T at 2:51. By this
time, Bold Endeavour was overtaking us, better at moving in very light airs,
but as we turned the corner downwind, we again slowly crept up on them. We
both were shooting pix of each other, being relatively close, in a great
opportunity to have under-way pictures for our memories.
It was a 100* apparent wind beam reach initially, on another short leg. At
that, in the light, 6 knot apparent wind, we still managed 4.5 knots COG. As
we were now a full length ahead, and slightly more apart than when we'd
started, I was a bit concerned that we might have to cross their path when
our course again turned northward. Our lovely beam reach lasted only until
3:15, when our primary leg arrived for our turn to 310*T. As our companions
were on the same point of sail and waypoints, our turns were simultaneous,
and, as the wind was dying, they'd again caught us up. As a result, there
was no concern for a crossing, and soon, we were looking at their stern.
Soon our foward motion and the turn kicked in, moving the apparent wind well
forward, particularly since the wind was also dying and clocking. Quickly,
we were seeing an apparent wind of 8 knots, aided by our 4 knots SOG, but we
were rapidly approaching a true beat of 30* apparent wind. Since we had no
rush to get to our anchorage, I moved our waypoint further to the west,
bringing our apparent wind back to about 45*, as we comfortably ghosted
We were hopeful that the wind would stay in the same quadrant, but it
continued to clock slightly, so by the time we arrived at our turn point
into Little Farmers Cay, it was nearly on our nose, and we both reluctantly
rolled up our genoas, flaked our mains, and motored the remaining small
distance to our anchorage.
Holding here, as has been the case everywhere else in the Bahamas, was
excellent, and we quickly were snugged in. The bottom here is nearly exactly
flat, and the water crystal clear, so it was easy to confirm the anchor's
set in about 10 feet of water. 100' of chain later, a vigorous reversing
had Flying Pig curtseying to the shore. A quick review of available
internet sites revealed a couple of potentials, but nothing strong enough to
make a connection. Interestingly, we still were seeing, at usable strength,
had we been members, the signal from the private cay 15 miles to our south,
so the lack of anything useful here was a matter of location. The main part
of the island's population lived on the other side of the hill, and because
WiFi is line-of-sight signals, no doubt a hill interfered with receiving a
signal from a building we couldn't see :**))
Explorer Charts has lovely things so say about the island, including a
couple of book swaps and what looked to be interesting coral on the far
side. We resolved to have a look the next day, and settled in for the
evening. Another interesting movie after a great dinner, and we were off to
Lydia and Doon got off to do yoga on the beach while Roy and I worked on
getting him another batch of the 400 gigabytes of movies we have, moving
them over to his terabyte drive. While he was working on that, I commenced
with another of my 1-2-3s. In this case, we'd ordered a replacement for the
stripper on our starboard genoa winch, the previous having broken long ago.
I installed it without incident some months ago, but ever since, the barrel
would not freewheel. As the previous stripper deteriorated and eventually
disappeared, it became necessary to monitor the line's progress to avoid
getting it snarled in the mechanism which would ordinarily feed the line off
as it came around the winch, so the new stripper was welcomed - but not at
the cost of no freewheeling!
If all you ever do is crank on it, not freewheeling is of no import, but we
also use it to provide friction for when we're hand-pulling lines to take up
slack quickly. In those cases, the drum should revolve freely, the ratchet
in the drum preventing it from going back in the other direction. I had no
idea what might have caused the change, but presumed I must have put
something in mistakenly when I reassembled it.
No problem, mon - just take it apart again... Doing so revealed, after some
sleuthing, that the new stripper was very tightly bound to the self-tailer's
plates which grabbed the line. (Winches without a self-tailing mechanism
have to be hand-tailed; the person tailing has to maintain tension on the
line so that the barrel of the winch continues to have enough friction to
pull the sheet or halyard being worked at the time. Self tailers make life a
great deal easier for the one doing the winching!) Careful removal showed
that the prior stripper, in its death throes, had slightly marred the
surface on which the ring of the stripper rode. Hm. Friction...
So, first I tried using emery cloth to clean up both the stripper and the
plate's surfaces. No go, despite using oil on the two plastic surfaces;
disassemble again. Fearful of taking too much away from the ring, my next
step was toothpaste. It's a very mild abrasive, and I'd very successfully
used it in the past on reviving hair clipper cutters. Unfortunately for me,
while it's a no-brainer to let the clippers do their thing at 60 movements
per second, lapping in the surfaces, it would take me a year of cranking
before I'd achieve the same number of passes of the same point on the
stripper ring and self-tailer plate.
Disassemble again, and take the ring and plate below to the workbench, get
out the drill and the same sanding flap wheel Lydia'd been using on her sea
beans. Carefully working around the ring, usnig very soft pressure to assure
minimal material removal, I kept checking until it was movable by hand on
the plate. At that point, I presumed that oil would make it workable, and
headed back upstairs.
All together now, with lube on all the moving points, and, hooray, while
it's a bit stiff, at least it's freewheeling. Over time, I'm sure it will
work into itself and be even better. I confess to never having serviced our
winches, as they've been flawless other than the broken stripper but I'm
sure I'll also get the opportunity to see and manipulate, if not replace,
We have several rebuild kits, so the occasional part overboard, seemingly
inescapable in winch service, will be covered. Actually, I use a bin to put
all the parts in, and, providently, have yet to lose any critical part
(other than a tool, of which I nearly always have a replacement available,
such as the time I lost a tap at the top of the mast - at which time I
actually already had the replacement in my bag!) during disassembly or
Tuesday, May 25, dawned nearly breathless and hot. Our original thought had
been to walk to town, but hailing one of the points with a book exchange
revealed that it would not only be a bit of a hike, we'd miss looking at
what looked to be great potential snorkeling areas. So, instead, we all
piled into the PortaBote. With its ~750# payload of fuel, people and books,
it wouldn't plane, but it went faster than our traveling companions'
inflatable with only them aboard, so we headed off to the south together.
Rounding the tip of Little Farmers Cay, we crossed the area expected to be
good snorkeling, but at close to slack tide, the current was still notable;
it would be a challenging snorkeling trip. Worse, what we went over, while
clearly visible under us, didn't look very interesting, so we abandoned
thoughts of that area.
Our source, Ocean Cabin, had said that we should come to the dinghy dock,
but we were beginning to despair of ever seeing one as we worked our way
against the current. However, eventually, we encountered "Little Harbour,"
the site of the dinghy dock recommended. Concentrating on getting over a
potentially shallow spot, I took no note of the shore. To our embarrassment
and amusement, when we asked to be pointed to Ocean Cabin, they laughed and
pointed up the dock. Sure enough, right across the road, there it was.
Just as we arrived, a boat was loading a large assortment of electronics and
musical instruments; apparently there must have been a concert there on the
After some chitchat with the guy who was removing rocks from the bottom at
low tide, helping the entry to the dinghy dock somewhat, we headed up the
hill. Terry Bain welcomed us to the library, which offers 2-for-1 (bring 2,
take 1) exchange, with review of any book, as well as no hardbacks. His
review rejected one for being not in good enough shape, and that policy led
to having mostly pristine books from which to choose. We also saw some
fairly high-end electronics, presumably for entertainment when the crowds
were bigger in season - but also likely the connection point for the
instruments and speakers we saw being loaded below.
Unfortunately for me, we found nothing we wanted, so we carted our 8
paperbacks and two hardbacks home with us. Not, however, before we'd had a
coke and a beer, and some very lovely, erudite, conversation with our host.
He revealed that he lived in the oldest house on the island, just up the
hill from Ocean Cabin. In OC, one could get internet for $10 per day, and
while we didn't sample it, I eventually did see his signal on the opposite
side of the island. Looking at his guestbook, which he was very anxious to
have us sign, revealed that many of the boats we've become friends with in
our travels had been there in recent times, some, like Winterlude, making
their 21st visit to his establishment. We'll be sure to stop in on our way
down when there are others here.
By the time we left, there were fish being cleaned on the dock, with the
skins and other discards being thrown in the water. Three sizeable rays -
the same sort as found at Volleyball Beach - were enjoying the castoffs.
They were joined by dozens of huge seargent majors, the colorful
yellow-and-black striped fish, and one VERY big jack. The fishermen
cautioned us against eating one like him, should we ever catch it, because
of the very high risk of ciguatera.
Eventually, cameras clicking the scene in the flat and crystal water, we got
in the dinghy and completed our circumnavigation of the island, being
assisted, this time, by the tide running in the other direction between
Great Guana and Little Farmers Cays. After we came around the top, we
reversed for a bit to check out something suspicious we'd passed. It turned
out to be a portion of a very large wing, wheel enclosed (upside down from
normal attitude for a wing), presumed to be from a very substantial
airlplane, from the size of the portion of the wing we saw. As there's
nothing on the charts showing a wrecked plane, perhaps it's that it's so
shallow as to not represent a challenge to navigation...
Our trip home accomplished, we'll leave you here for now. We have had
sporadic internet connectivity, and so were able to upload our replies, and
receive new mail over the non-web-interface type of mail I use.
Web-interfaced types of exploration will have to wait for a time when we're
better situated. If conditions are the same as last year, that should be in
a few days.
If I have to send it over winlink to my son for posting, it will
appear there timely, but those seeing it in the web forum will notice a
delay until our next reliable connection. Those preferring to see these in
real time can click the link to yahoogroups below, and subscribe. That will
generate an email to your mailbox any time a log posting is made...
So, until next time, Stay Tuned!
Skip and crew, lying off Little Farmers Cay, Exumas Bahamas
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)