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Bahamas – land of the the thin long sandy beach and skinny water

April 20, 2018

EXUMAS This is a land (sea) of nothing but water dotted with droplets of rock, coral and sand rarely rising above one hundred feet in a desperate attempt to provide a place to build a shack on. Of course now there are more than shacks. These outcroppings are now owned by some of the world’s glitterati like Little Hall’s Pond Cay owned by Johnny Depp. The cays are isolated, surrounded by sparkling clear turquoise waters and easily accessible by small plane or powerboats only a few hours from Miami. It’s a magical land offering endless possibilities to boaters. Both deep draft vessels and shallow draft vessels can wander for years searching the treasures of tropical waters. There are lots of places to go aground but that’s all the challenge as one wedges the boat between sandbars and coral ledges. One needs good visibility most of the time but the dry climate and almost constant winds provide most days with good visibility. There are both crowded anchorages and places far from the madding crowd but usually moving from one location to another there’s another boat on the horizon. Need help? Call out on VHF Ch 16 and invariably one will get a response. It’s hard to believe that all this exists only a short distance from the Florida shoreline.

The Bahamas is one of the most expensive places to cruise. For all boaters there is the initial charge of $US300 at customs which includes a fishing licence. If you need food supplies, most comes from the American mainland and they are not cheap. However, a boat well stocked that only needs to top-up the fresh fruits and vegetables can make out quite well. Despite this being one of the most expensive places to cruise we’ve spent far less money than almost any other cruising grounds.

How does that work? Well, there are so few places to reprovision in the Exumas that it’s hard to spend a lot. There are only a few places that offer the most basic of restaurants and the only entertainment is the beaches, sand water and sunshine – no theatres, a limited number of bars and no marine stores and a few restaurants. One makes their own entertainment and creates whatever makes it to the table for mealtime. The few centres that offer supplies are Staniel Cay, Georgetown and Highbourne Cay. There’s basically nowhere else to buy stores. And there certainly isn’t local produce available as most cays are uninhabited and if they are inhabited then waiting for the mail boat to bring mainland supplies is where the action is. I think next to the south pacific this is one of the most amazing waters on the planet.

Grace, pictured above, was waiting for us in Georgetown but we had been delayed in San Juan due to weather and arrived three days after Grace arrived. Grace was very patient and in no time we got her onboard and headed out to an anchorage. We managed to get in some good sails and a few different anchorages before saying goodbye. I only hope this neophyte sailor enjoyed her time onboard and made her first step to becoming an ancient mariner

The entrance to Georgetown Harbour is under a bridge and into a land locked lake. Great protection and inside is a convenient dinghy dock complete with fresh water and a grocery store at the head of the docks

Chat and Chill restaurant/bar on Stocking Island provides a venue for sailors to tell long tales and to hang up their old T-shirts! They also have a great volleyball court we got into the habit of joining in for games for a few hours in the afternoons

The wild side of Stocking Island has a nearly deserted beach bordering the Atlantic. This day was exceptional as the wind was from the west hence a calm sea.

2 lost tourists walking down the streets of Georgetown (photo by Grace)

This screenshot is of the southern half of the Exumas with anchors (if you can see them) indicating places we anchored

One of those full moon nights

Sunset reflected in rocks around Rudder Cut Cay

Now this has to be one of the strangest tourist attractions. Tourists even come down on hi-speed tour boats from Nassau to feed the ‘swimming pigs’. If you go to Nebraska do you go to a farm to feed the pigs? I’ll admit I did go but that’s only because I needed a photo for my brother who used to raise pigs.

If you want a laid back vacation on a quiet island surrounded by tropical waters this is it – Fowl Cay Resort – http://www.fowlcay.com

Friends over for dinner

The northern half of the Exumas again with anchors

I just wish we had been around when this three stack BBQ was fired up

Warderick Wells – HQ for the Exumas land and sea park. Unbelievably beautiful and a must see if you are anywhere nearby. Beautiful walks on the cay and interesting snorkeling

The mailboat – the lifeblood of all the communities throughout the Exumas.

And here the best laundromat seen anywhere in the world – courteous, clean, reasonable and the best view while scrubbing those shorts

And here’s the proof

This little guy in Warderick Wells was afraid of nothing. He wanted to climb into my backpack for the water. Unlike George the gecko onboard Sage this guy has a curly tail

Warderick Wells and environs. Lots of skinny water, coral and rock

ELEUTHRA

To escape some westerley weather we left Wardrick Wells and scooted over to Rock Bay at the south end of Eleuthra. Another tricky entrance on to a shallow bank and then a little tricky navigation in to Rock Bay and the town of Rock Sound!

Skinny water continued to challenge us with depths of 5-12ft with scattered rocks and coral. It does take a while to adapt after spending so much time in the deeper waters and anchorages of the eastern Caribbean. However, there’s nothing like scooting over the sand at 6 knots through crystal clear water. I don’t think we have been properly baptised as we haven’t gone aground yet. We did anchor in one spot and dug a little furrow in the sand at low water with the keel gently rocking from side to side.

Our initial glimpse of Eleuthra gave us the feeling of abandonment. Many of the houses were unoccupied, boarded up and rapidly declining. However, our first taste of a well stocked grocery store was here. It wasn’t quite mainland quality but it did signal the change as we move northwards towards what we refer to as La-La Land i.e. North America

We didn’t stay long as we heard there was an Eleuthra Jazz Festival starting on Friday night in Governor’s Harbour, the capital of Eleuthra.

Don’t ask me for names but they were good players from diverse backgrounds and various countries

We had a great evening. The featured musicians were giving a full concert on Saturday night but we joined in for the fish fry and community event on Friday. The musicians played gratis – short performances but very gratifying.

The community jazz event took place next to the library and the building used for the weekly Fish Fry – local seafood and chicken done on the BBQ

The Community Jazz event was held as a fund-raiser for the local library. Outside the building metal geckos were displayed and up for auction. They had been painted by various community organizations such as schools, businesses, art groups etc. I wanted two to mount on either side of our bows but was roundly outvoted.

Painted geckos up for auction at the fish fry.

A quick visit and off again and this time further north to Spanish Wells. This settlement was established back in the 1700s by loyalists. The town is the Bahamian centre for the crayfish trade. Our luck the season closed on April 1st so no special deals on a lobster dinner – aaargh.

Interesting place though. Very skinny water all round and one has to time approaches to the town keeping the tides in mind. For first timers we did OK coming in at low water. A little disconcerting as it gets shallower and shallower with the approach. Once in the channel the water deepens to a healthy 9 feet and in looking around and seeing large fish boats one feels better that if they can get out so can we!

The largest commercial fishboats seen in the Bahamas. All kept in excellent condition

We spent a few days meandering around waiting for the right conditions to make the 55 mile jump to the southern Abacos. Meandering wasn’t quite the word as the best way to get around is do it like the locals

Yup, the golf cart. Not electrical but gas driven. Great way to see what amounts to about 25 miles of roadway.

I think we covered almost the entire area and did our food shopping within the 2 hour hire! The rest we hoofed it.

Being off-season the building of new traps is high on the agenda

Abacos

Time to go:

Quick run up to the southern Abacos from Spanish Wells

I think the day we left Spanish Wells there were at least 20 boats making the same jump. They included both power and sailboats. The weather was good but the wind a little on the light side. And everyone knows that I don’t motor if there’s wind. So, we were the last to arrive making our arrival and dropping the anchor right at sunset – almost 12 hours to do 51.4. I hate to say that we did run the engine for 7 of those hours! We figured that it was only the third time in 8 years that we had run the engine for that many consecutive hours!

Meandering the southern portion of the Abacos

We’re not spending much time in the southern Abacos as it’s tax time! We need to get to Marsh Harbour where can tie up in a marina that has electricity and wi-fi. So that’s where we are as I write this. Forget taxes the blog is more important. Right?

So here’s to paying my taxes which if the truth be known I really don’t mind. Don’t let the beer fool you. I don’t really like beer but having good Scottish blood I can’t face paying the high prices here for a real drink (beer is 5-6 dollars/bottle). That hurts enough when in Martinique I can buy a great bottle of wine for the same price or less!

 

10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2018 18:57

    Thanks for this, as always, Tony. A glimpse into an amazing world and life.

    So grateful for the updates!!

    J >

  2. Wayno permalink
    April 21, 2018 19:33

    That was an excellent read and great snapshots. Onya Capt. Bluewhale… more please.

  3. kirby rimer permalink
    April 21, 2018 19:38

    Fantastic article, just had to end it with a beer ! Why didn’t you take a pig on board for your brother?

  4. April 21, 2018 20:23

    Tony:
    Snow pellet squalls on the Magnolias today. Remember, “If you ain’t been aground, you ain’t been around.” Stay cautious. Great blog. Fred

  5. William John McDowell permalink
    April 21, 2018 21:50

    Hi Tony and Connie
    A wonderful write up of your exploits around those Islands enjoyed every line and your thoughts of their life on those Islands I did not know how tall those coral Islands were
    Have fun and enjoy yes beer is expensive how about a nippy tippy there ( the highland malt ?)
    Saludos Bill.
    PS Dale and I with 2 other crew members did the Patos Island race last weekend brought back a few memories meeting Bandit in Poets cove that year when you did with Dale .
    Had a blast but no silver ware

  6. Tim McCann permalink
    April 21, 2018 23:01

    Are still in Abaco? One of my guys is from the marsh Islands and his Dad owns a grocery store there. He actually may be home from school at Alabama now

  7. frances cartwright permalink
    April 21, 2018 23:14

    Forget the water colour, it is the picture of you two taken by Grace, beautiful!

    memories for both of us of 40 years ago

    on the hard, grinding… it’s steelheading Haida Gwaii

    next… again

    fair winds,

     m&f

  8. Darrel and Loretta Smith permalink
    April 23, 2018 00:04

    Great photos and stories. Thanks again for sharing. Keep up the good work/play!

  9. April 23, 2018 00:39

    Great post. At Stocking Harbour did you move or drag to the 3 anchors?…lol. We are back on the boat in Pisa and are enjoying lovely 26 C days as we prepare the boat for the season.Wishing you fair winds and calm anchorages. Barrie and Sandra

  10. Patrick Georget permalink
    April 26, 2018 16:08

    Thanks Tony and konny!!!! Thanks à lot !!!! Amazing color of water !!! Happy To see you happy….realy. Im now in ecuador , différent than Pérou but very nice. Some trekking vulcanos soon…its not the best season To be here.. ..anyway. better in july / sept.. Kisses To you and enjoy life!!!!! Patrick.

    Télécharger Outlook pour Android

    ________________________________

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