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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shroud Cay

Next stop south in the Exumas was Shroud Cay, and our first stop within the Exuma Land and Sea Park.  Throughout the park there are well maintained mooring fields, but at Shroud we elected to anchor in a more remote spot a little south of the field.

Shroud is about 80% mangrove, and 20% dry land, and is criss-crossed by several estuaries which made for great kayaking.  We found one up at the north end that wound all the way through to the back side of the dunes on the ocean side.

The Exumas are largely unpopulated and undeveloped with a few exceptions, so cruising involves anchoring (and moorings in the park), making your own water and electricity, etc.  I don't think there are any marinas, places to get water, or fuel stops anywhere between Highborne and Staniel.  But, despite being more remote, we found the Exumas to be decidedly more crowded than the Abacos.  The mooring fields all filled up each afternoon and the latest arrivals had to anchor (which is no big deal.)  And even our more remote anchorage ended up with 1/2 dozen boats.  It wasn't as tight as Allen's Cay, but there were still a lot of boats around.

The other interesting thing - and perhaps some of our readers can shed some light on it - was the predominance of boats from Canada.  I'd say Canadian boats out numbered others by 4 to 1, and of the Canadian boats, more than half were from various parts of Quebec.  With the Bahamas so much closer to the US than Canada, I'd expect the opposite.  One thing I was wondering is whether there is a longer winter holiday in Canada that makes it easier for folks to come spend a month down this way?  Or perhaps they are just smarter than us and more quickly figured out the pleasure of escaping a cold winter.  I know I've been slow to figure it out.

But getting back to the number of boats, most of the mooring fields are first-come-first-serve.  Except Warderick Wells, home to the park headquarters, operates on a reservation system.  It all takes place over VHF because there is no cell service, wifi, or anything else.  Every morning at 9:00 the process begins, conducted by the park "manager".  First, there is a call to find out which boats will be leaving that day.  Then there is a call for reservation requests.  Most requests are for that same day, but while we were there they also accepted requests for the next day.  It's a bit of a free for all to get your request in, fueled by the first-come-first-served nature of the reservations, but I can't think of any better way to conduct it.  Once all the requests have been voiced, the manager goes off line for a few minutes while she sorts out the requests.  Then she comes back on and calls the boats one at a time to give each their mooring assignment for the night.  All in all, it works pretty well.

We listened in while at Shroud key, and although our reception was marginal at that distance, we put in a request for the next day, the decided to head a little further south for the night.


Path of the Blazing Sarong said...

Hi Peter, we too have noticed the disproportionate numbers of Canadian cruisers, both in the Pacific and Atlantic/Caribbean. I think it comes down to the fact that the majority of cruisers are middle and upper-middle class folks. The downturn in the US and the trajectory of the US economy in general has hit that group harder than it has in Canada apparently. One good thing about having all those Canadian cruisers is that they tend to be very friendly, which is nice.
I'm wondering how you like your Navionics charts of the Bahamas. Ours put the dry land in the right place but depths and recommended channels were downright dangerous.. This surprised me because the Navionics chart set we used in French Polynesia was excellent. I think we paid something like $30 for the Bahamas charts for our IPad and $200 for FPoly which might have something to do with it. But the experience taught me that having name brand charts does not guarantee consistency.
All best wishes,

Peter Hayden said...

Hi Adam,

You may be right. I'll have to ask some of my Canadian friends.

As for charts, I ended up with two different chart sets, one for my Furuno NavNet 3D system, and one for Coastal Explorer.

The Furuno chartset is a raster replica of the printed Explorer chart books (which I have too). The explorer charts were quite good in my experience, and I got them because everyone I talked to said they are the best for the Bahamas. The only issue I had with the Furuno version of the chart set is that they screwed up when they stitched together the big scale chart and the detailed chart of Great Sale Cay. In the map world this is called geo-referencing, and it's simply the process of properly aligning and locating a map to actual lat/lon coordinates. It's pretty common to see slight annomolies where large scale charts/maps transition to detailed charts/map because many maps, especially older ones, are imperfect. But in most cases it's no big deal. However MapMedia, the branch of the Furuno/MaxSea/Mapmedia conglomerate totally buggered up the geo-referencing of the detailed chart of Great Sale Cay, adn located it 1/2 nm south of it's actual location. The large scale chart is fine, but when you get close and zoom in, the detailed chart kicks in, Great Sale Cay jumps 1/2 nm south and you find your self suddenly on land. I've reported the problem, Furuno acknowledged it was a problem, but MapMedia has been a silent black hole on the subject.

Mistakes happen, I get that. The frustrating part is that the only place you can buy charts for the Furuno system is from Furuno because it's a proprietary format. Yet when there is any issue with the charts Furuno just washes their hands of it and tells you it's MapMedia's problem and that I should deal with them.

I ran into this last year with some Canadian charts, and it's what motivated me, when selecting navigation systems for the Nordhavn, to favor systems that do not require proprietary charts. That ruled out Furuno and Garmin.

The other chart set that I bought is the C-map Bahamas chart for Coastal Explorer set that is "based on the Explorer Charts". These are vector charts, and from all I can tell they are spot on. Depths were either exactly right, or on the conservative side, and everything was exactly where the charts said they were. Plus, there is a bunch more info in the C-map charts beyond what the explorer charts offer. For example, the C-Map charts showed a number of additional routes and waypoints beyond what Explorer has.

I did find it helpful to have the vector charts on one system, and raster charts on the other. At times each is preferable in it's own way, and that's why I picked the raster version for the Furuno system instead of another variation of the vector charts. But if I had to pick one, it would be the C-map charts.

You mentioned Navionics, but I don't have any of their charts for this area.