DECEMBER--Port Lucaya on the Grand Bahama Island to Staniel Cay in the Exuma Chain
Arrival in the Bahamas:
Completed the 83 nauticaul mile trip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida across the gulfstream to Port Lucaya on the Grand Bahama Island around 8:00 AM on December 1. Entered Lucaya at low tide with high, fairly widely spaced seas on our stern. Had some concern about bouncing on the bottom but we made it through the shallowest spot with 6 inches under the keel . Called for the Dockmaster at Grand Bahama Yacht Club on the VHF radio---no answer so dropped the hook, had breakfast and used their WiFi system to check our e-mail.
Moved to the marina around 9:30 AM. Carl took the water shuttle over to the Port Lucaya Marketplace to clear into Customs and Immigration. Cleared Customs by 11:30 AM then told to return to the boat. Immigration would come over to the marina to clear us later. Waited on the boat---fell asleep so checked with the Dockmaster around 1:30 (just in case he tried to call us while we were asleep). The Dockmaster called Immigration for us--once again told to wait at the boat. Finally at 3:00 PM, ELEANOR M and ELIORA arrived from Lake Worth, Florida. The Dockmaster called Immigration again--this time the Dockmaster was told to bring the captains from all three boats in the water shuttle to the Marketplace for Immigration. Cleared Immigratrion at 5:00 PM getting 180 days. Note: regarding "180 days"......It seems like every year there is some controversy in the Bahamas for visiting cruisers. Back in 2007, restrictions were placed on fishing--especially the taking of lobster and conch. Last year, it was moorings and a pump-out boat for Georgetown. This year, Immigration started giving shorter periods of time for visitors (as little as 30 days---then you can renew). Every morning on the Cruiseheimers Net, there are reports regarding the number of days cruisers arriving in the Bahamas where given and where they checked in. The main topic of discussion whereever cruisers gathered (laundry rooms, Happy Hours, check-out lines, etc.) was "how many days?". Our plan was to check in at Port Lucaya and before we left Florida, we heard several boats were given 180 days. Yes, we were granted 180 days making us "Happy Campers---I mean Happy Cruisers".
We are in the Bahamas---lunch with SAPPHIRE (Kathy and Mike) and FINE LION (Kim and Steve). Had my first Kalik and cracked conch as my Re-introduction to the Bahama.
Enjoyed the stay at the Grand Bahama Yacht Club---stay two nights and get the third night for free. Transient boats are charged $10.00 per day for water usage regardless of if it is used or not so I scrubbed the boat not conserving water at all. A good Happy Hour at the marina bar (two drinks for the price of one plus conch fritters). Would have enjoyed the pool but a cold front came through the day we arrived lowering the temperature to around 60 (back to jeans and sweatshirts not bathing suits). Took the water shuttle over to the Lucaya Marketplace where we roamed around shops and over to the beach resort. The beach on Lucaya is so beautiful and there were hardly any tourists there. Stopped in the casino to play the slot machines---I sat at a nickel machine while Carl sat at a quarter machine. When both of us won more money than we initialy put into the machine we cashed out. Cheap entertainment. Stayed a fourth night in Lucaya---left the dock to drop anchor in one of the canals. A local fisherman found us and sold us our first lobsters. Boy were they good.
Following pictures from Lucaya. The first three--the bar where we enjoyed Happy Hour, the pool (the building behind the pool can be rented for special events such as weddings and holiday parties). The last picture show the three fresh lobsters that we purchased. Quite sure lobster tastes better if you hunt them yourself but these were quite delicious.
About the Bahamas
The Bahama Islands were discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus when he landed on San Salvador. Before Columbus, the islands were inhabited by the Lucayans who were eventually killed off or enslaved by the Spanish. For the next 150 years, the Bahamas were essentially ignored primarily because the water routes are dangerous without navigational equipment and there are no mineral deposits, no farmland and little fresh water. The land eventually became British property in 1629. The first white settlers came to Eleuthera for religious and personal freedom where they survived but never flourished. The only settlers who flourished were the Pirates who hung around Nassau for about 100 years until they were hunted down and eradicated. After the American Revolution, Colonists who remained loyal to England, (Loyalist) tried to settle in the Bahamas without much success. There are still Loyalist ruins on several islands to explore. The Loyalist brought about 4000 African slaves to the Bahamas from their plantations in the south. The slaves were emancipated in 1833 and became citizens of the Bahamas. Today the black population outnumbers the white three to one. The primary industry is tourism.
The Bahama Islands are a 100,000 square mile archipelago that extends for more than 500 miles between southeast Florida and northern Hispaniola. The population is 347,000. About 1/3 of the population live on New Providence (where Nassau is located). Only 20 islands are permanently inhabited. The islands are flat--the highest point is Mount Alvernia on Cat Island. Five percent of the world's coral can be found in the waters of the Bahamas. I don't think you will see waters any where that are more beautiful than what you see in the Bahamas especially along the Exuma Chain.
Cruising with Chuck and Sandra on ELIORA. First met them at the Grand Bahama Yacht Club. Chuck and Sandra left Lucaya a day before we did--- met up with them at Devils Hoffman. Last year, Chuck and Sandra were on vacation in the Bahamas sailing on their friend's boat (Georgetown to Staniel Cay). This is the first year cruising in the Bahamas with their boat. Chuck, Sandra and their dog, Freckles, are a lot of fun. They are quite young---they could be our children! Enjoy exploring islands with them, sailing between anchorages, sharing meals and playing games (CATCH PHRASE and SEQUENCE). I think they appreciate the guidance and advice provided.
Next to "How many days did you get from Immigration?"--- the most frequently asked question is "What are you doing for the next cold front?" This month we have had 5 cold fronts with west component wind of longer than usual duration and stronger especially the southwest to west portion. In my opinion, 4 of the 5 cold fronts have been strong. The first one on December 1 was the mildest with northwest winds at 20 knots. Tied to a dock in Lucaya so our only complaint was how cold it was! December 6 another cold front passed through when we were anchored in Devils Hoffman with northwest winds at 20 knots gusting to 25 knots. Lots of protection here from seas. The current did push us around a little so at times we were broadside to the wind and waves. Our only concern with this front was the anchor never dug down into the sand. However, we stayed put with just the tip of the anchor in the sand. The windiest cold front was on December 12---tied to a mooring in Waderick Wells with west northwest winds 25-30 knots gusting 35-38 knots plus one or two squalls to 40 knots. DISCOVERY really sails at anchor (or mooring) whenever the winds blow above 25 knots so we put on hundreds of miles that night sailing back and forth. We doubled up on mooring lines to make sure we were securely tied to that mooring. At Cambridge Cay for cold front number four on December 18. Anchored this time riding out west to northwest winds at 20 knots with squalls 30-40 knots all, and I mean all night long plus it rained hard (3 inches). Anchored in the Land of Oz (north of Fowl Cay and Big Majors) for the last cold front. The winds blew out of the northwest at 25-30 knots gusting 35 knots but no squalls.
Sailing and Fishing:
Enjoyed a fast sail from Lucaya to Devils Hoffman Cay. West winds at 18-20 knots gusting to 25 knots. Fairly large seas. Had a huge mahi mahi on the line at 8:45 AM. Carl tried to pull him in but not possible---the fish was too heavy and lively. Tried to tire the fish out by just dragging it but it managed to get off the hook. Very disappointed!!! The waves subsided when we reached the north end of the Berry Islands and sailed in the lee of the island which made it a more comfortable ride. No more bites.
Tried to sail from Devils Hoffman to Nassau. Winds were northwest at 14-16 knots (point of sail a broad reach to running) when we left the anchorage and forecasted to drop below 10 knots by noon. Managed to sail for two hours. One bite on the fishing line but then nothing. Turned on the iron jenny to motorsail into Nassau.
Winds east at 10-15 knots when we left Nassau. Sailed on a beam reach rather slowly for 6.5 hours then motored into the anchorage. Sailed for a couple hours when we left Hawksbill Cay headed for Waderick Wells--light wind from the east that died after a squall passed by so motored the rest of the way. No fishing allowed within the boundaries of Exuma Land and Sea Park.
Enjoyed an easy 4.5 hour sail when we moved from Big Majors to Cambridge Cay. East winds at 15 knots. Had to fire up the iron jenny when we turned east to head out into the Exuma Sound and then back west to motor into Cambridge Cay. When we left Cambridge Cay to return to Big Majors we took the shallow route around Bell Island. Once we were back onto the Bahamas Banks we sailed to the anchorage.
When we left Big Majors to head to Black Point (laundry) we motored to Harvey Cay then sailed on a broad reach in 15 knots of wind to Black Point. Sailed all the way back to Big Majors---fast run to Harvey Cay on a broad reach and then a slow crawl pinching into the wind when we rounded Harvey Cay.
Pleased with the amount of sailing in December. Disappointed with the fishing. Of course, most of the time we were prohibited from fishing because we were within the boundaries of the Exuma Land and Sea Park.
Devils Hoffman is in the Berry Islands about 75 nautical miles from Lucaya. It is one of the few anchorages in the Berry Islands offering all around protection. Dropped our hook just west of White Cay in 9 feet of water. ELIORA was at anchor when we arrived just before sunset. Talked to them briefly making arrangements to visit the Blue Hole on Hoffman Cay the next day.
Someone left two beach chairs on the beach at White Cay. Those two chairs were calling my name inviting me to come to shore for a sitting. After a few minutes in the beach chairs, I strolled over to the ocean side where I found lots of sea glass---small pieces which I gathered up in my bag. Carl noticed Chuck could not get his dinghy engine started so he went over to see if he could help them while I continued to search for beach glass. Chuck's dinghy engine would not start so Carl gave them our 2 horsepower engine to use so they could go to the Blue Hole with us. The path to the Blue Hole was overgrown but we squeezed through. The effort was worth it--a pretty spectacular sight.
Two beach chairs on the beach at White Cay. One has my name written on it. In the chair less than 15 minutes because it was too darn cold. Found a white piece of coral sitting on a black rock--looks like a Polar Bear too me. The last three pictures were taken at the Blue Hole on Devils Cay.
Stayed one night in Nassau anchoring east of the Nassau Harbor Club where ELIORA was staying. Tied our dinghy off ELIORA while I went to the grocery store for fresh vegetables and fruit. Carl purchased a new propeller for our 15 horsepower engine. The new dinghy prop will help us get up on plane with 3 -4 passengers. A very peaceful night at anchor with no wind at all so a great night of sleeping.
Anchored on the east side of Norman's Cay based on the forecasted northeast to east winds. Just after sunset, the winds picked up to 20 knots and backed to the northwest. Had no protection from seas generated by northwest wind with open water all the way back to Nassau. It was a night of rocking. Felt bad that ELIORA had to experience such a rough night at anchor. What kind of guides are we? By sunrise, the winds clocked to the north with no change in velocity. Took the dinghies to the southern end (east side) of Norman''s Cay because it was too rough to land a dinghy on the west side. Beached the dinghies and found a path that led us past the dump ground and then out to the main road. Walked around some of the ruins from the days when Normans Cay was home to one of the Columbian Drug Lords. Walked to the runway to watch a plane land and then back to the boats. Just as we were pulling anchor, Bonnie and Roger, on KOKOMO called on the VHF radio. They were headed to the east side of Norman's (smart move) and later moved to anchorage at the center of the island for total protection.
Chuck, Sandra, Freckles, Carl and I at Norman's Cay.
Hawksbill Cay is part of the EXUMA Land and Sea Park. On the trip down to Hawksbill from Normans, saw a dolphin swimming in the water which makes both Carl and I smile and laugh. Just love dolphins. Shortly after the anchor was set at Hawksbill Cay, picked up Chuck, Sandra and Freckles for some island exploration. At low tide we waded through a mangrove creek and then over the hill for a fantastic view of the ocean. The rocks are sharp so must be careful with every step you take. Back to the boats for appetizers---taught Chuck and Sandra how to play SEQUENCE. The following day, picked up Chuck, Sandra and Freckles and rode in the dinghy to a bay north of where we were anchored. Here we found a well marked path to the other side of the island again finding beautiful views and beaches.
The next four pictures were taken at Hawksbill Cay. First picture is Carl enjoying the view at the beach. Picture two and three were taken on our hike. The rocks that form the trail are so sharp that Freckles had to be carried and all of us were concerned about cutting our feet (made the mistake of hiking in flip flops). The last picture is a rainbow after a squall went through.
At a mooring at Waderick Wells where the Headquarters for the Exuma Land and Sea Park is located. Arrived there on Saturday just in time for the park's Saturday night Happy Hour. Lots of good food and new cruisers to meet. It was challenging to meet people on a moonless night when you could not see people's face. There was a small light at the picnic table so we could see what we were eating!!!. Did some hiking on the island. Hiked to Boo Boo Hill where cruisers leave mementos with the name of boat, names, dates, sometimes hailing ports, etc. Current rules: the mementos have to be made of driftwood. Park volunteers often sort through the mementos removing older ones and anything that doesn't comply with the rules. So surprised to find a memento from WIND BORNE (Pat and Mac) that was dated 2004. Not far from Boo Boo Hill is a blow hole but it was not active because the winds were westerly so no waves crashing on the Exuma Sound side. Had a potluck one night on DISCOVERY with ELIORA and RUNAWAY (Marty and Matt) followed by a game of SEQUENCE.
In the first picture of Carl on the hiking trail--NOTICE the path that is made of sharp rock. The next four pictures show various mementos left by cruisers including the ones left by ELIORA and DISCOVERY (not too original are we???). Happy to find WIND BORNE's memento from 2004. The last picture was taken at Boo Boo Hill of the anchorage. Discovery is the 4th boat counting left to right!
Just a little note about the Exuma Land and Sea Park. It covers 176 square miles--starts at Wax Cay Cut southward 22 miles to Conch Cut and extends four nautical miles east and west of the cays (land mass). It is a no take zone---no fishing or shelling or beach combing. The most beautiful waters in the world (my opinion) are located within the park boundaries or just south of them. The park is managed by the Bahamas National Trust. There is a board with name plates of significant contributors posted by the office. Noticed names like Adolphus Coors, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and two of particular interest to us--William Parfet, Barbara Parfet who are associated with old Upjohn Company where Carl and I worked.
Big Majors Spot (don't know why it is called spot versus cay versus island) is one of the best anchorages in the Exumas as far as the holding is concerned. It is good is all but wind with a westerly component. Love it when you drop the anchor and it sinks in the sand so deep you can only see the very top of the anchor. There are three beaches on the west side of Big Majors---Pig Beach; Middle Beach and North Beach. As the name implies, Pig Beach is home to about a dozen pigs who swim out to the dinghy when you approach the beach. They are looking for food. Middle Beach is where cruisers hold Happy Hour and North Beach also has some pigs on it but they stay in the bushes (you can hear them but not see them). Noticed some of the huge charter yachts set up parties on the North Beach. Found Tim and Linda (MATSU) anchored at Big Majors (first met them in Charleston, SC and then spent time with them in Trinidad). Mike and Kathy (SAPPHIRE), Kim and Steve (FINE LION) and Barry and Susan NIGHT HAWK) were here the first night we arrived. Steve organized a Happy Hour on Middle Beach. Big Majors is located next to Staniel Cay where you can get fresh produce. There are several restaurants in town. It is easy to walk to the dump to get rid of trash and there is a beautiful ocean beach. Carl and Chuck went to the Thunderball Grotto to snorkel late one morning at low tide. Stop at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club to use the internet.
Pig Beach. A medium size pig is on its way out to meet us. Brought them the waste from when I cleaned 4 heads of romaine lettuce.
Cambridge Cay is located at the southern end of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. Have a choice here to take a mooring or anchor. This is a high rent district. Some Middle Eastern Prince purchased Bell Island which forms the west side of the anchorage. Noticed a helicopter that either brought someone in or something in and then left again. The homes on the island are beautiful. Just a little northeast of the anchorage is Little Halls Pond Cay owned by Johnnie Depp. His yacht was anchored on the west side of the island. I also noticed a huge Jolly Roger flying from the highest point on the island. Yes, the islands are home to a Prince and a Movie Star but the real beauty is the anchorage, the snorkeling and the fellowship with other cruisers! Here we met Jan and Karen (BELLA). Taught them how to play SEQUENCE. Enjoyed several beach gatherings and hiking on the Cambridge Cay. Chuck and Carl went to Rocky Dundas (a cave) to snorkel.
Beach party at Cambridge Cay with ELORA, BELLA (Karen and Jan), MATSU (Tim and Linda) and BLEU MARIE II (John Pierre and Michelle). Met BLEU MARIE in Trinidad--they are on their way back with a new boat. The last picture is Carl playing French Cricket. The batter must not move his/her feet when surrounded by people who have one tennis ball that is gently tossed with the goal of hitting the batter's feet. The batter uses the Cricket Bal to keep the ball from hitting his/her feet.
Went down to Black Point for two nights. Rockside Laundry is the best laundromat in the Bahamas ($3.50 for a washer and $3.50 for a dryer). This is where you buy the best coconut bread (Lorraine's Mom bakes bread once or twice a day as needed). Internet is available at Lorraine's Cafe. When we stopped in Black Point, all the restaurants were closed because the owners were off to Nassau to spend Christmas with family.
People leave their boat cards on a wall at Lorraine's Cafe. Could not believe it ......found CLOUDSPLITTER's boat card which was left there in 2007.
Anchored in the Land of Oz for the last cold front of the month. To get there, you pass through a narrow cut between Fowl Cay and the northwest corner of Big Majors. Once through the cut, you turn to starboard and follow the shore of Big Majors until you reach the northeast corner of Big Majors (the north end of the island is very narrow). Head north a couple boat lengths then head east. This gyration is necessary to avoid a sand bar. Dropped our anchor is a huge patch of sand to set out another blow.
Anchored at Big Majors on Christmas Eve ---dinner on ELIORA. Paul and Mary (MERRY SEA) joined us for appetizers in the cockpit. Saw the green flash at sunset. Played SEQUENCE before dinner. Paul and Mary did not stay for dinner. Sandra made salted cod (this is their traditional Christmas Eve dinner) with roasted potatoes. Sandra also sauteed some broccoli. I made risotto with lots of vegetables. For dessert, pumpkin bread and scotcheroos (rice krispie bars made with sugar, Karo syrup and peanut butter).
Pictures taken Christmas Eve. Sandra bringing appetizers up to the cockpit. Second picture is Chuck, Sandra and Mary. Third picture is Paul, Carl and I. Picture four shows the salted cod.
Christmas morning we moved over to Oz in preparation for the cold front coming through the following day. Around noon, we picked up Chuck and Sandra in the dinghy to head over to Sampson Cay Club for Christmas dinner. Rendezvoused with a group of cruisers anchored in Pipe Creek. Before dinner we munched on strawberries and raspberries to dip in chocolate and sipped on drinks from the bar. A great dinner of roasted rosemary chicken, ham, garlic mashed potatoes, and sweet peas. For dessert--mini berry cheesecakes. Late afternoon/early evening we joined Marty & Matt on RUNAWAY for cake, coffee and Nassau Royale. Also on board RUNAWAY was Gordon and Laurie from MYSTIC (Laurie made the cake) and Matt and Marty's daughter, Kristin.
Christmas Day at Sampson Cay Club. Picture one is Bonnie and Roger (KOKOMO). Picture two is BLUE JACKET (Donna and Jerry). Picture three is Connie (HIGH STEPPER--where is Doug?) getting strawberries. Picture four is Carl and I by the Club's beautiful tree.
Cake, coffee and Nassau Royale aboard RUNAWAY.
The week between Christmas and New Years is huge in Staniel Cay. Thursday, December 30, late in the afternoon there is an auction. Cruisers donate stuff which is then auctioned off to other cruisers. Raised $2,700! This is also when cruisers to sign up to crew on the Class A Bahamian Race Boats. Finally free drinks and dinner. Wow, the dinner was fabulous--lobster salad, conch fritters, conch soup, grilled fish and fried fish. On December 31 the Bahamian Race is held---three races. These boats are something to see. Sandra crewed on LADY MURIEL. She said it was total chaos and not very safe. Regarding the chaos---no person appeared to be in charge so it was disorganized. As far as safety--there were people on board who did not know how to swim without life jackets on and the boom is very low. Sandra would not allow Chuck to crew on a boat for race three. New Year Eve we had dinner on ELIORA along with BELLA. After dinner we played games Back to the boat around 10 PM. Went to bed but woke up when the fireworks went off so I was awake to welcome in the New Year!
Things were rocking at Spaniel Cay. Picture one and two were taken during the Auction. Carl and I took our food to the dock and sat down to enjoy the rays and sharks swimming below our feet.
Two Class A Bahamian Boats, LADY MURIEL and TIDA WAVE raced during the day New Years Eve. TIDA Wave won all three races. Went out in the dinghy to get a closer look. It was windy so it was wavy so it was wet but worth it! The last picture was provided by Chuck who had a telephoto lens on his camera. A prize winning photo.
January 03, 2011