Raccoon to Double Breasted Cay 4-3 to 4-6-10, Jumentos Bahamas
When we left you we'd just anchored, quite alone, at House Bay in the
southern end of Raccon Cay following a marvelous sail. We have to say that
we much prefer the isolation of solitary anchorages and deserted beaches, so
this suited (or not - the weather was adequate to shed all that) us just
Once settled in, we got out our charts and the notes which Lydia had taken
from two fellow cruisers on our last night in Long Island, giving us lots of
local knowledge for the Jumentos and Ragged Islands. We'd heard such great
things about the area that we were anxious to get on with our adventures.
Our original plan had been to get all the way to the Ragged Islands,
immediately, as being the best protection for the expected northeast to
east-northeast winds to come in the next few days. However, the southern
part of the Jumentos are virtually north-south oriented, and nearly any
would do as well as the other. So, we chose to enjoy the area in which we
found ourselves rather than double back on the way up. Of course, we'll
have to pass these area when we head north again, but we won't have to take
time for exploration and hunting.
As we arrived close to dark, we settled in to relax for the evening. Bright
and early on Easter morning, we went Easter Bean hunting. Cruisers in the
Bahamas prize unusual seeds which are difficult to find in general, and of
which you may have heard here, if you've followed my log for some time.
Heart beans are shaped like hearts, and, when polished, have the glow of
rich leather. Hamburger beans, depending on the age and condition in which
they are found, are so named because they can be from dark to light tan on
both sides, but have a dark strip running around the perimeter (like a
hamburger in a bun). Both make nice jewelry pieces, either in necklaces,
earrings or bracelets. Generally speaking, it requires huge amounts of
digging among the seaweed and detritus found on lee shores to find any at
all, but we'd had great reports of much easier hunting in this area.
Accordingly, we made plans to take the dinghy to Johnson Island, reputed to
have many attractions for visiting there. Because we are truly in the
wilderness out here, our supplies are always of concern. If we exhaust our
dinghy fuel (we have two 6-gallon tanks, full aboard), we are stuck for
local travels, for example.
We decided to use our PortaBote, a collapsable, lightweight,
dinghy instead of the inflatable. It carries the same load as the
inflatable, but isn't much use as a tugboat, with its hard sides. The very
strong advantage for this area is that it is virtually indestructible; it
would shrug off a grounding on a sharp limestone point. Better yet, it uses
a 6HP engine, where the inflatable uses a 15HP. It's therefore much more
economical to run at speeds useful for traversing the relatively greater
distances out in these waters.
We keep the PortaBote, collapsed to about the size of a surfboard, on the
port forward rail. We assemble it by hoisting the bow with the spinnaker
pole hoist line until the stern is flat on the deck. We last used the Bote
in Georgetown last year, making it stiffer than it would be if we'd been
using it regularly, so it took perhaps 10 minutes to assemble, rather than
the usual 5 or so, due to the additional wrestling needed to overcome the
desire for it to turn into a man-eating plant, folding itself back in on the
one who's trying to hold the sides apart initially!
We start by putting on the transom, and then each seat. Essentially, the
seats spread the sides, and the nose comes to the point which provides the
tension. Simple clips keep the seats in their receivers, and legs under the
seats hold the bottom, which is very flexible, in position.
Driving the PortaBote is just like any other dinghy or skiff, other than
that, being made of high density polyethelene, the sides and bottom are
relatively flexible. As the boat comes up on plane, the bottom flexes in
synch with the waves, so it moves under your feet. It's also, being
flexible, a bit odd to have it plane perfectly flatly, with the bow sticking
to the water. For all that, it's as fast as our 15HP inflatable, so it let
us wander a long way at a great deal less fuel consumption.
Travel to Johnson Cay was at less than planing speeds, because we had to
climb a lot of waves. The wind has persisted during our time in the
Jumentos, so, in the open ocean part of our travels, we were seeing 3-4'
swells. Not a problem for the PortaBote, it was a very dry ride, and we
arrived in due course.
As promised, it was a great anchorage for boats with just a LITTLE (like a
few inches!) less draft than we had, but there was nobody there when we
arrived. Pulling up on the eastern side of the beach, we were able to see
the Atlantic side of the island, so we set out on a goat trail to get there,
visions of great sea-bean hunting, as described to us by others, in our
heads. Sure enough, we got there with no trouble, but before we even
started, I'd already picked up a couple of heart beans, and several more
along the way.
OY! All the seaweed thrashing we'd done to find all of a couple in the last
trip to the Bahamas, and, here they were, obvious and unencumbered! Making
our way to the ocean side, we were hunting, also, for the "well" from which
the goats on the island drank. We'd been told that we follow the path to the
well, and, going past the well, the garbage/detritus piles were great
hunting. Looking everywhere, we saw neither, until, finally, we went all
the way to the south side of the ocean side. Sure enough, here's piles of
trash, and, a little further in, a rock wall.
Evidently, cruisers, over the years, have built this wall around what looked
to be very brackish, or, certainly, very green water, but while we were in
that area, well back from the ocean, we heard a kid bleat, and, right after
it, his mother. Both had come from the ocean side, headed for the well, and,
startled by seeing us, bleated. The kid looked pretty interested, and
gamboled our way, but Momma was on VERY high alert, quickly bleating him
back to her. We squatted to make ourselves less conspicuous and/or
threatening, and, eventually, they went leaping onto the wall, and made
their way to drink.
After they'd left, we resumed our search, and, indeed, did find many more
beans in the trash. Thus sated, we started to make our way back to the
beach. We'd thought to bring our chart and our hand-held GPS, along with
our handheld radio, in the event we got confused, or, worse, in distress, so
that we could call for help (assuming anyone might be listening!). However,
once there, we'd left both in the dinghy. Disoriented, we wandered around
and climbed the rocks, only to find that we were about 90 degrees off where
we needed to be. Once we saw the PortaBote, we of course went immediately
to the path we'd taken, and started to explore the beach.
Imagine our surprise (and which explained our directions on the well and the
trash area) to find, about halfway down, a huge log with "Welcome to Johnson
Cay" written on it, and, a little further down, a very obvious path marker
which, we presumed, would have led us directly to the well!
We've been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to dive for conch and hunt for
fish, but the weather has been unseasonably both windy and cold, so neither
of us has felt much like getting in the water, and today was no different.
It WAS warm enough to go native, but the water was bracing.
Thus satisfied that we had, indeed, seen and enjoyed the groundside
pleasures (goats up close and personal, the well, the trails, the beans, the
ocean and the beach), we set out to go back to Flying Pig. It was a pretty
exciting ride, as the waves were now behind us. I continually played the
throttle to keep from surfing down the waves and plunging the bow under the
other side. It was still a dry ride, just a bit more exciting, and,
certainly, faster than the way over.
Along the way back, we investigated a couple of the beaches on the south
side of Racoon Cay, but it was close to low water, and there were nearly all
rocks or reef in the area. In settled weather, it would, no doubt, have
been great snorkeling, but with the waves breaking on it, I certainly
wouldn't want to be in the water, or even take the boat there, so we gave it
a pass after taking a bit of a circumspect look at the realities.
Once around the corner, however, we were again able to plane the Bote, and
we made quick time back to Flying Pig. When we returned, we found that we
were no longer alone. The anchorage just south of ours had a boat which we
stopped and chatted up, having been offered a beer and some Easter candy
they'd gotten in Duncantown, the only settlement in the Jumentos and Raggeds
(our originally planned immediate destination). We traded boat cards, and
then went on to our anchorage, where we found TWO more boats (emphasis due
to our previous solitude). As it was getting late, we didn't go introduce
ourselves, but mused on how quickly our neighborhood had become "crowded."
(A fairly typical anchorage might have dozens, or even hundreds of boats,
but when you're off in the out islands, even another boat is unusual.)
We were pleased to see that our solar panels had again taken up some slack,
and our battery deficit was once more reduced. A quick check of our mail
over the ham radio interface, a supper of PBJs (we actually love them, but
it's difficult to keep ourselves in bread, so we don't get them all that
often), and we rejoiced in our succes in finding Easter Beans - especially
since it took so much less effort than anything we'd previously experienced
Monday, April 5th, we did our usual, sleeping in a bit, but getting up in
time to hear from Chris Parker, our weather guru. Propagation was pretty
good, and so we were able to get a good link to him, as well as provide a
couple of relays to him from other cruisers he couldn't hear.
Unlike the previous expectations of milder winds, the weather was actually
getting a bit more severe, with higher winds than expected, as well as
having more northerly component than previously forecast. Not a problem,
we're snug here. After breakfast, we, as we have for the last week or so,
tried to reach our friends in the Caribbean on one of the channels Chris
uses, to no avail.
As I'd spent a lot of time on the ham radio, both in conversation, attempts
to contact our friends, and email, we decided to run the Honda generator to
get our batteries back up to full when we got up, and, sure enough, our
batteries were in float mode by the time we were ready to go. Rain had
threatened, so we didn't leave immediately, but instead read a bit, but,
shortly, the sun was out again, and we were anxious to leave.
So, we set out to explore the northern part of Raccoon Cay, but on the way
we stopped at the other two boats and dropped off or exchanged boat cards,
as well as trading local knowledge. Our target for today was to see the
"Blue Hole" on the island, described by others as actually being more of a
green hole. Our chart and visual reference had it up perhaps a mile, and,
armed with some local knowledge from the catamaran we'd just left, we headed
into another deserted beach.
As we approached the shore, Lydia pointed out a dark shape in the water,
thinking it was a ray. I thought it was a shark... Sure enough, as soon as
we got anywhere near, it took off like a shot, not stopping until nearly
deep water. Unlike the caricature of sharks, despite it having been in very
shallow water, this one's fin and tail never broke the surface.
It was a pleasure to see it, as I have not had any opportunity to see any
other than nurse sharks, which are the sloth version of sharks, not moving
very fast at all.. This one, however, like most we've heard about here, was
pretty shy, and couldn't wait to get away from this intruder (us), doing so
at great speed. It wasn't all that big, probably only about 4 feet, but I
look forward to seeing more of them, as the area is noted for sharks.
We found the trail to the blue hole pretty easily, it having been marked by
prior cruisers, and found it, indeed, to be green. It had tiny fish
swimming around at the edges, apparently eating the grassy stuff on the
immediate edge. We also found several immature conch which had died a normal
death, leaving their colorful shells behind, so we took those along with
several other treasures Lydia'd found. I also picked up many large, older,
and thus all faded, natural death conch shells and placed them in a line
next to the marker stones that showed the path to the blue hole, and we
headed back home.
After a brief stop for a late lunch, we headed out to see if we could find
the 3-ft deep water supposedly threatening passing vessels off the southern
end of the island. All our hunting proved fruitless, as our hand-held depth
sounder showed nothing less than 8 feet of depth. That would help us feel
better as we went on to our next stop, but wouldn't do us any good in the
search for conch, likely in such a spot, based on our prior experience.
On the way back, we stopped at the beach on the south end of the island,
hoping to find a way across to the area we didn't attempt in the dinghy in
the trip home from Johnson. Sure enough, while not marked, there was an
obvious path running over to the other side. From the pellets everywhere, it
was evident that this was a regular goat run, but we've not seen or heard
any since we've been here...
The reef area was, apparently, not sufficiently in the lee of the Atlantic,
so there was nothing of interest on the beach, but the reef, were it a
settled day, looked promising. All the glorious stories of snorkeling and
hunting we'd heard have so far been insupportable on our part, as the
water's never been suitable to enter...
Disappointed, but invigorated from our earlier explorations, we again
settled in for a quiet evening, and, after I'd checked the mail and had
supper, we turned in, this time, "early." Early turned into late as both of
us had real page-turners, and we didn't turn off the light until nearly
11PM, very far past "Cruiser's Midnight" of 8PM.
Tuesday was a repeat of Monday in arising, including that, since I'd already
gotten out the Honda generator, running it for a little. As we were already
pretty high, it floated off pretty quickly, so we turned it off when the
batteries were 93% full. The solar gain for the rest of the day should bring
it right up.
Oops. After Chris, this time with very poor reception (this time I had to
use a relay) and an even worse forecast than before, along with our, again,
failed attempt to reach our friends on the SSB (the "public" high frequency
radio bands, no license needed), rain threatened.
So, we read for a while, and, eventually, the sun did come out again. We
really didn't have a great deal more to do here, other than that we wanted
to explore the ruins in the area, and walk our own beach. So, of course,
that's what we did :**))
The anchorage just to our south has a very substantial dry-stacked rock wall
on it. There's nothing in any materials we have which indicates its
purpose, but given the size of the rocks used, it took some substantial
effort to accomplish.
Further on, according to our charts, there's a "salt pan" noted. I looked
for some path, and found something a bit likely, helped by the mostly-sand
terrain there. Sure enough, through the vegetation, I saw what looked
likely. Once we got there, it was obvious that this had been commercially
used in the past, as there we rows and rows of rocks separating the huge
pond into segments. The shoreline was crusty with salt. Like was the case
in Long Island, apparently commercial sea salt recovery used to be an
industry here, as this was no casual effort to accomplish.
We also saw a pretty well preserved ruin, the walls of which, those which
had crumbled revealed, had been made from conch shells filled in with
concrete. What a marvelous use of local materials - conch shells in
profusion, and limestone for the digging, it was easy to accomplish, if
As we were coming back from the southernmost part of the beaches, we saw
another figure walking toward us. Who but the folks on the boat from Water
Cay? They'd anchored (yet ANOTHER boat!) in our anchorage just before we
went exploring, and had the same idea we did. More lovely shells and
another notable piece of driftwood in hand, we set off across the little
sand bar between Racoon and the rock just off our anchorage.
A local fisherman uses it as his lobster trap storage, apparently, as there
were many of them stacked up there. When we got down from there, we got back
in the dinghy to see if we saw any reason to get in the water to explore the
area cut out from under the rock (many rocks in the Bahamas have been
undercut by the waves, yielding reefs right under the shelf-overhang so
made), but a tour of the area didn't look interesting enough to jump in,
especially since it was still very windy and not at all hot (though very
comfortable, lest folks think it's cold here; it was about 75*F), so we
headed back to Flying Pig, in preparation for our trip to Double Breasted
We'd learned that the tides in this area were similar to those of Nassau,
only a few minutes apart, so we were able to time our departure to arrive at
nearly high water. That would be important in that we had to cross a few
areas which, at the lowest tides, would be likely to touch our keel.
However, the moon state at the moment is such that low tide is well over a
foot higher than the lowest, so we weren't worried about it.
And, much to our pleasure, the sun, despite playing peek-a-boo (and
occasionally spitting on us, to boot), had brought our batteries up to 97%.
Stowing the generator in the cockpit again, we secured the below and above
decks for an expected rock-and-roll trip, as we had to cross the area where
we'd been surfing the PortaBote so recently.
Prudent as always, we took the charts at face value, and made the detour
around the water we found not less than 8' deep. Sure enough, we never
found less than 3+ feet under our keel, which would have been more like a
10' depth, and turned toward the open ocean. As it was an extremely short
trip, most of which would be directly into the wind, unlike our usual mode
of travel, this time we motored.
Surprisingly, the portion where we were beam-to on the waves was quite
smooth. We figured that the wind velocity, 20 knots or more, had pushed
hard enough against the rigging (also known as sailing under bare poles, if
we'd not been motoring), that we assumed a slight heel all the time, making
the boat more stiff.
We reached the anchorage right at the presumed high tide, and went "shopping
for water" - wandering around seeing how deep it was. As we are starting to
expect in the Bahamas, our charts showed much less water than we actually
found, but there were still plenty of areas way too shallow for us, so we
threw out the hook well offshore. With all the wind, anchoring was actually
easier, as the anchor bit, and on each chain length added, bit again. Like
the many recent anchorings we've done, this one, too, was very solid.
With the expected higher winds, however, I'd let out 100 feet of chain for
our 8-9' depth. Oops. We're pretty close to the top of the island, and
it's subject to "surge" - waves which come around the corner, and aren't in
line with the wind. We got some rock and roll...
The solution to that is normally to use a bridle - a line connected to a
snubber but connected to either the stern or midships, and then to let out
more chain, causing the nose to go to one side, rather than directly into
Despite letting out enough that we were actually beam-to on the wind, the
rolling actually got worse with that, so we decided to let it be as it was
originally, using our normal snubber. The amount of rolling we were
experiencing wasn't uncomfortable, so we'd just deal with it.
We'd arrived in plenty of time to go exploring, so, off we went, again, to
see if we could see the ocean side. Sure enough, there was a trail marked at
the beginning with a stake and several benches, and, as the path through the
vegetation gave way to mostly rock, flip-flops and plastic bottles were hung
on low-lying branches of the ground-hugging vegetation, leading the way.
The ocean side was impressive, to say the least. The waves were crashing
onto the rocks, throwing spumes high in the air. Off to the north, we could
see a beach area, and, fortunately for us, the ground wasn't the spiky
limestone stuff usually found at this kind of shore, but fairly flat. A
hike of a quarter mile or so put us on the beach, again.
This was more like the others we've seen, in that there were huge branches
or tree trunks thrown against the rocky cliff areas, and the sand areas were
strewn with mostly plastic debris. I found a lovely float with a very
substantial stainless steel fitting on it. I believe I'll use it to mark my
anchor, something seen occasionally, particularly in crowded situations, so
that someone doesn't accidentally drop theirs on yours or foul your chain
when they anchor. It will also, should (very unlikely here) the anchor foul
for some reason, immediately allow you to find it to dive down and free it.
Lydia found a few more sea beans, and another couple of immature, natural
death, conch shells to add to the collection to take home to family and
Thus encumbered, and, still, not finding the weather warm enough for any
other than au naturel ambling, we returned home. The rock-and-roll had
increased enough that Lydia wasn't all that enthusiastic about cooking
dinner, so I headed below for one of my "boat dinners" - a concoction, in
this case, of frozen veggies, Lipton/Knorr side dishes, added cheese and
spices, all cooked together in a "bowl meal."
Bowl meals are simplest and safest aboard a moving boat as they're less
likely to find on the deck (typical would be to hold it in your hand rather
than on a table), and eaten with a spoon. This evening's was pasta alfredo
mixed with broccoli rotini stroganoff, supplemented by cheddar and swiss
cheeses and some spices, including some grown-on-board basil.
Delicious, filling and "comfort food" for the howling winds outside, I
topped it off with one of my rare treats, some oreos for dessert. A quick
check-in to the Maritime Mobile Service Net, logging our travels and
position report for the "ShipTrak" service they offer, and I was off to The
Flying Pig Log.
We'll do some more exploration in the next couple of days before we move on,
but until then, Stay Tuned!
Skip and crew, lying 22* 18.929'N/75* 16.033'W in 20+ knots of wind
Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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