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and From The Bahamas, 2008
April 6 we left Florida in the company of Terry and Kitty on Cytherea. After the
stormy night, It took them a while to decide if they were truly going to make
the crossing, so we got a later start than anticipated. It turned out that the
storm was already far out to sea leaving us with a pretty easy crossing - wind
and seas were both good.
had the main sail up but when we tried to put the genoa out, we discovered that
the port winch is broken: it wouldn't hold. We managed to wrestle the genoa sheet
under control, and in the process Neal got a finger caught in the wraps on the
winch but was able to get free without any real damage to either skin or bone.
A close call. Once we got the sail furled, the rest of the trip was peaceful and
next challenge was finding the entrance to the channel into North Bimini Island.
Luckily a third boat heard the conversations between us and Cytherea and gave
us good directions. Finding a marina deep enough for us took a while, but we were
tied up at Bimini Big Game Club by 4:30 in the afternoon.
Bimini Island is about 7 miles long and, at it widest point, 700 feet wide. The
marinas are at Alice Town, the largest community on the island, and that's also
where you clear in to customs and immigration. It's a tiny town but it does have
churches and schools. The main road is paved. It's a British Commonwealth country,
so they drive on the "wrong" side of the road. I was surprised at how many cars
there were in a place that small. A car must be a significant status symbol. In
a place where one is not necessary The main forms of wheeled transport were scooters,
golf carts and bicycles. But there's nothing you can't walk to.
were all friendly - greeting us and one another as we walked around town. It reminded
me of any small town where everyone knows everyone else and also know everyone
else's business. We strolled the town, spent time in the pool at the marina and
watched the fish swimming around the docks. This was our first experience with
the unbelievably clear water of the Bahamas. We ate at the marina restaurant where
we discovered a rum drink called Bahama Mama. We had a great breakfast at Captain
Bob's one morning. There's not a lot to do in Alice Town, but I liked it there.
the 10th we headed for Nassau. We'd had no intent to visit Nassau, but decided
that we needed to top off with fuel before heading farther afield. This passage
took us across the Great Bahama Bank, south of the Berry Islands On the way, we
anchored on the Bahama Bank overnight and then headed into Nassau.
waters of the Bahamas are renowned for clarity. It's almost impossible to describe.
The closest I can come is to say that it is like looking into a gem stone. The
white sand bottom under the shallow water gives a perfectly breathtaking turquoise
color to the water. Even in the few deeper areas, when the light is right you
can see the bottom through 30 feet of water. The Bahamas are perched on a huge
limestone plateau. Depths over the Bahama Banks are generally less than 20 feet.
The tides washing over the banks keep the water clear. It is astounding and I
can't stop looking at it.
south of the Berry Islands as you approach New Providence Island where Nassau
is located, you enter the Northeast Providence Channel. After traveling over the
Bahama Bank where depths average less than 20 feet, you suddenly find yourself
in deep water. At one point on our route the chart shows a depth of 2,734 meters
which is 9,133 feet. Deep.
you head for the islands, you know things are going to be expensive, but it's
still a bit of a shock. On the US mainland, we're so accustomed to unlimited fresh
water and electricity that it's easy to forget that those things are not universal.
Fresh water, especially, is hard to come by and expensive in the islands. In some
places we paid 50 cents a gallon to top off our water tanks, and in Nassau the
fee was a flat $8.00 per day. Electricity was also metered and more costly in
the islands. Unfortunately, we discovered too late in our trip that we should
have replaced the membranes in the watermaker, so we forked over more $$ for water
than we should have. Next season we'll know better.
stayed at a marina in Nassau mostly because the guide books warn that it may not
be safe to anchor because of thievery. They recommend the safety of a marina with
a security presence. That didn't do much to give us warm fuzzies about the city
but we did see many boats anchored in the harbor. We lucked out because our marina
was just across the street from a shopping center with a great supermarket (except
for the meat department). We walked to The Poop Deck, a popular restaurant and
had an expensive but just ok meal. We had a breakfast at a restaurant with a menu
apparently aimed at locals. We did not have sheep's tongue souse, or stew fish
head, or stew fish meat. Much as we like to say that we like to sample local cuisine,
we do have limits. Good old eggs and toast for us. From Nassau, we headed to Allen's
Cay, our first stop in the Exumas.
Exumas was our destination for this trip. This chain of islands begins southeast
of New Providence Island and continues in a southeast direction. Our first stop
was Allen's Cay. We got there on April 14.
Allen's Cay claim to fame is that it is one of the last natural habitats of iguanas
in the Bahamas. There's a nice little anchorage bounded by Allen's Cay, Leaf Cay
and SW Allen's Cay. The iguanas are found on Leaf Cay and SW Alllen's Cay. They're
quite an attraction. Every day excursion boats from Nassau arrive and disgorge
dozens of tourists onto the beach to see them. As soon as the critters hear boat
motors, they come scampering out to the beach hoping to be fed. They're not exactly
beautiful creatures, but they are kind of cute as they scurry along on their short
little legs. They're fun to watch as they vie for the food being tossed to them
and chase one another.
was a very nice anchorage. We dinghied around and explored a little and I fed
the iguanas some lettuce. The few pieces of boat wreckage we saw scattered around
the area were an omen. When it came time to leave, we found our anchor chain wrapped
around a long jagged piece of metal that had looked like rock on the sea floor.
Apparently swinging around the anchor on a stormy night had got the chain wrapped
around it. The offending object was covered with sea growth, and was at least
13 feet long with rod-like projections that wouldn't let the chain slide off.
We brought it up as far as we could with the winch and then we both got into the
dinghy to grapple with it. With great effort, Neal was finally able to lift it
far enough that we could get the chain free. Never a dull moment!
next stop on April 14, was Highborne Cay where we anchored for a couple of days
just off the western shore. We did some exploring by dinghy, but the highlight
here was the fish - remoras. Remoras are strange fish that have huge suckers on
their heads by which they attach themselves to sharks, whales, boats, ships, and
occasionally divers. They're not parasites, they're hitchhikers . We discovered
them when I'd cooked too many noodles for a casserole and tossed the excess overboard.
One, then two more came racing out from under the boat. So we'd occasionally toss
more food out to them. Now, after seeing photos of remoras attached to divers,
I'm very glad that I didn't follow up on my impulse to get it the water to see
if they'd fastened themselves to our hull. Here's
more info on remoras.
Cay is the northernmost inhabitated Exuma island, but it's a private island and
the only inhabitants are all employees. There's a marina that also has a few cottages
for rent, and a caterer who delivers meals to boats in the marina. We went into
the marina for a couple of nights to get fuel, showers, and get rid of trash.
In a huge splurge, we ordered dinner from the caterer: BBQ ribs, rice & peas,
cole slaw, a rum cake and a loaf of fresh baked bread. The cost was outrageous,
but while the ribs were just enough for the two of us, we had enough rice and
cole slaw for three meals so we rationalized the expense. In the marina we saw
a nurse shark and a huge barracuda - no doubt they look for leftovers from the
boats. At low tide in the shallows there were also numerous colorful tiny fish
staying out of reach of the big guys.
Cay - April, 2008
Wells Cay - Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
April 22, we moved to Warderick Wells Cay bypassing a number of islands on the
way. Shroud Cay is said to be very interesting but it is a mangrove swamp which
means it's loaded with no-see-ums and that's a terrible problem for Neal. Next
time we'll probably stop at Norman's Cay but we sailed by it this time.
Warderick Wells Cay isheadquarters of the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park. The park
covers 176 square miles including several cays and extends about 4 miles out to
sea on either side of the cays. It was established in 1958 and has served as a
model for similar parks around the world. The entire area is a no-take zone: nothing
can be removed from the park - no fishing, no shelling. Just pristine waters,
sea life safe from harm or capture, and great places for diving and snorkeling.
Click here for more info about the
took a mooring here and settled in for a while. We hiked the trail to BooBoo Hill
where people leave mementos of their visit - pieces of wood with their boat names.
We explored by dinghy. We even tried kayaking in a two-person kayak. We managed
to stay upright so we consider it a success.
big surprise was to see two Saga 43s (boats like ours) coming in one day. So we
got to meet more Saga owners - always a pleasure - and we hope to see them again
as we travel north this summer.
friends Jennifer & Jim Bagley met us here, too. They'd been in the islands for
several weeks and had been farther south. It was great to see them again and spend
a couple of evenings together comparing notes and sea stories.
outboard motor had been acting up so one morning, Jim came over to give Neal a
hand trying to diagnose the problem. Jennifer was snorkeling so I decided to go
in, too. Turned out not to be a good idea. I picked a poor situation for my first
snorkeling experience - the strong current proved too much for me. It took much
more effort than I'd expected and I ended up grabbing onto another boat's mooring
line and climbing up their swim ladder for Jim to come and get me (Neal was working
on his motor). I'll be more conservative for my next try.
the outboard was put back together and seemed to be running, we went out for a
ride accompanied by the Bagleys in their dink. It was on this ride that the outboard
failed. It lost power. The engine was running but we were getting very little
thrust so we limped back to the mooring field and almost made it home before we
completely lost forward motion. Luckily Jim was able to tow us back to Sea Fox.
We'd lost our water-borne mobility.
ended our Exuma adventure. It was May 2, and our insurance wants us north of Savannah
by June1. Time to head home.
plan was to head straight for Nassau for fuel and groceries and then on to Lake
Worth, Florida. When we arrived in Nassau, we headed right for a restaurant that
serves cheeseburgers. The next day we went grocery shopping and had pizza for
dinner. After being away for several weeks, it was good to have US-type comfort
food. In the grocery store, we ran into Roy and Doon from Bold Endeavour, who
we last saw in Annapolis last summer. These were the people who we met on the
ICW at the Alligator River on our way north last year.. They'd also been cruising
the Exumas and were on their way back to the US.
Monday, May 5, we left Nassau harbor only to discover engine trouble and head
right back to the marina. There seemed to be a problem with the throttle linkage
- not getting as much power as we should and the sea water cooling seemed to be
having a problem. Neal changed the raw water pump impeller which brought the cooling
sytem back to normal. The throttle problem remained a mystery but we finally left
Nassau again on May 13. This time we were headed directly for the US with no stops;
taking the deep water route - the Northwest Providence Channel. Wind and waves
were higher than predicted, but we had no storms. This is a very busy route -
the cruise ships heading from Florida to Nassau all travel this way, and cargo
ships bound for the Bahamas also use this route. We saw more traffic on this passage
than on any other we've made.
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