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Highbourne Cay

Log: 3694

Friday, February 7, 2008

Location: Highborne Cay Marina

Distance Traveled Today: 39 Nautical Miles

Total Trip Distance:  1055 Nautical Miles

We traveled up along the Bahama Bank today, sheltered to some degree from the winds and seas in Exuma Sound. Winds were from the southeast at about 20 knots and we had three to four foot following seas even on the bank side of the Exumas. Seas in the open sound were reportedly six to eight feet so we were happy to be on the correct side of the islands.

And that brings me to list some of the many things I have learned after three trips to the Exumas in three different boats over the last 10 years:

1. Try to avoid being on a schedule. While I have loved having guests down to join us, and welcoming friends and family to help move the boat, it is a terrible thing to be on a schedule in these islands…or anywhere else that we cruise. While people have to make plans and plane reservations, being in a certain place at a certain time forces you to sometimes travel when weather dictates otherwise. Further, there are so many wonderful stops down here, you often pop into a spot ovenight and wish you could stay over a few days. From now on, to the extent possible, I’m just going to allow extreme extra time whenever I’m required to schedule anything.

2. The boat needs a good battery and inverter system. This is not exactly a new lesson to me but I haven’t had an opportunity to anchor out much on this boat. Therefore, I was unaware that the battery power would not carry a normal load long enough to anchor overnight without running the generator. The boat has five large batteries dedicated to the “house” load, and the load is certainly less than on my last boat, which had six house batteries. However, when the batteries are fully charged and we go to bed at night without the generator, we only get about six hours before the batteries get too low to run the inverter. I’m reasonably sure that we simply need new batteries as these are nearly five years old. I would like to have at least 12 hours of time on the inverter without having to run the generator.

3. The Bahama Bank side of the Exumas offers the best cruising without the concerns about wind and seas you have on the Exuma Sound side. I’ve always assumed the water would be too shallow on the banks and that navigation around shoal areas would be difficult. Not so. The routes are shown clearly on the charts, we have rarely been in water less than 18 feet deep, and there is an abundance of great places to anchor or tie up for the night. Next trip, I may skip Georgetown altogether and just cruise up and down the Exumas on the “back” side of the islands.

4. The “Spectra” 12–volt watermaker I put on this boat is fantastic. It is practically maintenance-free. It is started by just pressing a button in the pilothouse. It rinses itself out when finished and automatically rinses every five days when not in use. It makes 12 to 13 gallons of water an hour so we have been able to easily replenish out tanks every day. This would be a difficult trip without such a setup.

5. The unlocked cell phone I got for the trip with a Bahamas SIM card has been a great investment. Calls home are much cheaper than roaming with a U.S. phone here and additional minutes can be purchased almost anywhere.

6. Absent a satellite phone with internet access, free or cheap wireless can be found on even the most remote islands down here. However, it would be nice to have some kind of wireless antenna setup on the boat to pull in weak signals. All the marinas say you can use the internet from your boat but I usually wind up sitting outside their office for a decent signal.

7. This boat needs a freshwater washdown faucet on deck. This can be easily added but I overlooked it before the trip. Caked on salt has caused havoc to the steel boat and I have rust stains all over. I’ll need a paint touchup and a washdown system before doing this again.

8. This is a long way from home, especially in a seven-knot boat. I do love it down here, and you must come this far south to really avoid winter altogether, but it’s a long, long way. I’ve traveled 1055 nautical miles in 177 hours. I hope to do this again but it certainly won’t be an annual trip.

9. Marinas are expensive. While I like to get off the boat every few days and perhaps have dinner ashore, take a walk, etc., this is prime territory for anchoring out, and I should have done more of it. Admittedly, the inverter/battery problem and not wanting to run the generator has been part of the problem, but next time I’ll plan a lot more time at anchor.

So, that’s today’s list of lessons from the Exumas. Compass Cay last night was one of those stops we would have extended absent a schedule, but we reluctantly plowed ahead today to Highborne, at the north end of the Exumas. The high winds led us to pay for dockage again. Tomorrow, we should have about a six-hour run to Nassau where Laura flies out Sunday and Perfect Deckhand James joins me Monday for the rest of the trek home.

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