This time I (Kelly) have written the post and Eric has added his thoughts in italics.
Leaving Rock Sound means leaving the protection of the banks. I love sailing on the banks because it gives me the minimal waves that I like and allows Eric to sail in the 20 knots of wind that he likes. HOWEVER jumping from Eleuthera to the Exumas means a deep water sail which warrants some caution. It’s not dangerous, it’s just…deep. This means higher winds = higher seas. Now, it also means that we’ll be able to throw our fishing lines off the stern and, hopefully, catch something yummy for dinner, so yea! (We don’t troll on the banks…you only catch barracuda, and those aren’t safe to eat.)
So, we leave Rock Sound with the predicted wind at 20 knots, higher than I would like, but Eric is happy. With a 20 knot wind the boat really gets up and goes. I find much greater enjoyment sailing at 8+ knots than 5. We plan to sail to Highbourne or Staniel, not sure which. It just depend on the conditions. Coming out of the sound is great. Eric reefs the mainsail, just in case the gust are above predicted wind, and we do a few jibes to get around the point. No problems. Since all is well, we decide to head for the further destination, Staniel. Then one of the fishing lines takes off as we sail over the wall (where the sea bed goes from 2000 to 60 feet). Eric fights with the fish for a bit, but it’s so darn big that it snaps the line! We can’t fathom how big the fish is because we’ve caught a 50+ pound mahi on that same line. I’m pretty sure I caught the Kraken! Now we’re down to one rod for the sail. Needless to say, we’re bummed, but the wind and wave conditions are about to become a huge distraction.
Once we clear Eleuthera, the wave angle changes and the height picks up. This is to be expected because the land is no longer acting as a buffer, however they continue to grow and are now ~ eight feet. For the record, I’m not lovin’ it. Another solid passage of single handing with my family. One wave crashes on our stern and nearly washes our beach chairs overboard. This is startling because we have them lashed down! The waves are powerful and growing because the wind is much higher than forecasted now, consistently blowing in the low 30s and gusting in the high 30s…i.e. not Kelly conditions, but we are moving, and surfing some of the waves at 15 knots, woohoo. A few hours into our sail, when the conditions don’t let up, I reel in the other fishing line cause we’re not slowing down or turning around for anything…we’re just going to get there…and a lot quicker than expected. What should have taken 9 hours has only taken us 5 because all this wind is making us fly. My nerves get the best of me and I may or may not have ‘fed the fishes’. I join the kids who are laying down in the salon, handling the conditions like champs, i.e. much better than me. At this point it’s gusting ~ high 30s and the waves are averaging ten feet. It’s slightly discomforting looking up as the waves break, but I can see the sets and get the boat into a good surfing angle for the ride.
We get close to our destination, and Eric has to go on the bow to bring down the mainsail. In these conditions, this simple task is nerve-wracking. Thank goodness we religiously get the boat ready for sea before we head out (i.e. putting stuff in secure places where they won’t fall and come crashing down if the boat rocks and rolls). Let’s just say that there is PLENTY of rocking and rolling going on while the sail is going down right now. Eric gets back to the cockpit and now we have a new challenge…getting through the cut. It looks…savage. Waves are slamming into the rocks throwing spray up on either side. Eric calls on the VHF radio for anyone listening to impart any local knowledge of going through the cut in these conditions. He gets one smart ass telling us to ‘look at your charts’. Thanks buddy. (eye roll) Anyone else? Thankfully a super helpful guy gives Eric some pointers, one of which is that there is a better cut further down, but we’re done. We’ve already made the turn and have committed to doing this. Lots of prayers are said. Eric surfs our 47 foot boat down 10 foot waves through the cut then, per our VHF angel’s wisdom, takes an immediate hard turn to port. The waves drop down to nothing. We’re in. We both breathe massive sighs of relief and ride the current the rest of the way past Staniel Cay.
We choose to anchor as far away from the ocean side as we can, and find ourselves anchoring at the famous ‘pig beach’ at Big Majors. A nice surprise! There are a ton of boats here. Many are huge mega yachts. It makes for good ‘harbor TV’. One morning we watch one of the bigger yachts conduct a spinning class on the highest deck. Another has crew members prepping kiteboarding equipment for their guests, launching them, then chasing their guests in their tender (i.e. small boat, like our dingy, but 20+ feet). There are also a lot of cruiser boats here. We meet many and swap stories. Some we meet on ‘cruisers beach’, the small beach next to the ‘pig beach’, and others we meet on ‘pig beach’. The kids fall in love with those pigs, specifically, one of the smallest , Coco. The kids enjoying feeding the pigs, kind of. Some of them are huge and there are signs warning visitors about being bitten, so the kids are leery at first. Dad to the rescue! Eric feeds many pigs our produce scraps. The biggest of the pigs, Big Mama Karma, has figured out the system. She opens up her mouth really big for you and you just toss the food in. No worrying about her biting off your fingers. The pigs are so domesticated. They like scratches and belly rubs. During our time here, we visit the ‘pig beach’ four times. We also visit ‘the grotto’. It’s an interesting cave where one of the old 007 movies filmed a scene. It’s Thunderball and they call it Thunderball Grotto. It’s become a popular tourist attraction. You can swim in, feed the fish, and ride the current out. We bring some stale crackers and feed the fish. The kids decide the fish get uncomfortably close and swarm so, again, they let Eric finish feeding them.
We spend Easter here at Big Majors. Rest assured, the bunny can make it out to boats. We hid eggs like usual, but this time, it was around the deck of the boat. The kids are kind enough to share their candy stash with us and we enjoy some while hanging out at ‘cruisers beach’. Eric and the girls also drift snorkel the cut between ‘cruisers beach’ and Fowl Cay. The current is swift and you pretty much fly along and don’t see very much…but they love it. Eric tows the dingy behind him and they ride the current, then when they get through and slow down, they all hop in the dingy, motor back up, and do it all over again. Highly recommend it!