DECEMBER---Lucaya (Grand Bahama Island) to Big Majors (Exumas)

In the Bahamas (arrived November 30) and loving it!! Staying at the Grand Bahama Yacht Club where if you stay two nights....the third night is free! Scrubbed and rinsed the deck, sail cover, dodger, solar panels and every surface that the hose would reach including running fresh water down the hull. Carl put the dinghy in the water to scrub the waterline. The boat was salt-free until we left te marina is Lucaya.

Stayed in Lucaya longer than planned because of weather. Five days of northeast to east winds blowing at 25 knots in the forecast. Choices are: 1) go to an anchorage in the Berry Islands and stay there through the blow; 2) stay at the marina; or 3) anchor in one of the canals in Lucaya. Decided to splurge and stay at the marina along with BAD BOY (Doug and his crew, Don). The Yacht Club has a water taxi. that ferried us over to the Lucaya Marketplace. Walked around the Marketplace watching people, checking out a few shops and enjoying a rum drinks at Rum Runner. Had lunch one day .....cracked conch (yummy for the tummy). Stopped in the casino three different days to use the nickel slot machines. Day one......lost $4.00; Day two....won $4.75; Day three....won $2.00. In the evenings, off to the Yacht Club's bar for Happy Hour. The special at the bar is two drinks for the price of one and a plate of appetizers. In past years, the bar served conch fritters as the appetizer. This year, no conch fritters appetizers---oh how disappointing.

The last day in Lucaya was busy---completing last minute projects like filling the water tanks, laundry and picking up water for the batteries at a convenience store. The water level for the batteries was way, way down. Carl tested them (not good) so he filled them with water and started an equalization cycle. Called Keith (our cruiser energy expert) who was encouraging .....Keith was confident that Carl could nurse the batteries back to life. Carl was wishing he had replaced them before leaving Vero Beach. Hope they hold out until we return in the spring!

DISCOVERY all tied down for the cold front. Good thing the marina wasn't busy.


Top left is a picture of the outdoor bar at the Grand Bahama Yacht Club. Top right is the Christmas Tree at the Lucaya Marketplace's Count Bassie's Square.

Doug (BAD BOY) decided to have a couple braids added to his wig hat. Too funny.

Grand Bahama Yacht Club's water taxi.

The plan when leaving Lucaya was to head to Great Harbor Anchorage just southeast of Great Stirrup Cay. . traveling with BAD BOY . The winds did not diminish nor did they back to the northeast as forecasted. It was rough going with water spraying over the front and side of the boat (love the new side curtains). Carl looked at the charts---noted that anchoring at Great Harbor may not be a good idea. It is open to the east and we were dealing with a 4-5 foot easterly swell. Talked to BAD BOY who agreed we should change course and head to Bullocks on the west side of the Berry Island Chain. The first six hours of motorsailing from Lucaya was rough. The last two and a half hours (after changing cours)e was great. What a peaceful night we had anchored off Great Harbor Cay (Bullocks Settlement).

The following morning we headed to Devils Hoffman in light winds---another motorsailing day. Lots of cruise ship activity as we sailed past Little Stirrup and Great Stirrup Cay. Cruise lines have leased the cays and built facilities for their guests. BAD BOY decided to continue on to Nassau rather than going into Devils Hoffman. Found a spot of sand to drop DISCOVERY's the anchor. Off to shore to search for treasures on the beach. Didn't find any sea glass or shells but enjoyed a walk along the ridge of White Cay. Thought we'd be the only boat in the anchorage but a catamaran came in around 5:00 PM and around 6:30 PM a fisherman came in after dark. Both boats anchored around the corner....out of sight.

One of three cruise ships anchored off Little Stirrup and Great Stirrup Cay.


BAD BOY heading off to Nassau on the left. Photo on the right is DISCOVERY anchored off White Cay.


View of Northwest Providence Channel on the left. On the right is the sun setting over Little Gaulding Cay (The anchorage at Devils Hoffman consists of Hoffman Cay, White Cay, Fowl Cay, Little Gaulding Cay, Saddleback Cay and Devils Cay).


While anchored at Devils Hoffman, a cold front came through a little after midnight. The wind was light both before and immediately after the front. By mid-morning it was blowing 20 knots gusting 25. Decided to take advantage of northerly winds to sail to Nassau. If we had waited for the winds to diminish....the wind would have also clocked to the east making it difficult to sail to Nassau. Initially, the seas were flat because the wind had not been blowing from the north for very long. Four hours later, seas built 5-6 feet. Wondered how the channel into Nassau would be with the northerly seas coming in. Yes, it was rough going in but nothing like the inlet to Fort Pierce last November. In fact, I still get the shakes thinking about going into Fort Pierce.

Stayed in Nassau for several days. Off to the grocery store for fruits, vegetables and bread. Starbucks for coffee and internet although we picked up a wifi signal on the boat later. Met several cruisers Sunday afternoon at Potters Cay for beers and food. One of the food shacks had good conch fritters that were cheap or should I say inexpensive. Another weather decision to make in Nassau....the forecast is for a week of strong easterly winds 20 to 25 knots gusting to 30. Our initial decision was to move to a more protected anchorage in Nassau (west of the twin bridges). Shortly after moving to the protected anchorage, Matt on RUNAWAY called on the VHF radio. They were underway to Normans Cay. Matt reported that the seas on the banks were not bad and it was still comfortable sailing. Based his report, pulled anchor and headed to Normans Cay arriving about 20 minutes before sunset.

If you are at Potters Cay.....look for Doc Sands--- the best conch fritters and reasonably priced Kaliks! Cruisers in the photos--Matt and Marty (RUNAWAY), Jan and Diane (HIPPO), Michael (PAGAN CHANT), David and Martha (ANTIGONE), Doug, Don and Susan (BAD BOY) and of course, Carl!!


By the time we arrived at Normans Cay, the seas were building and wrapping around the island which means it started to get a little rough in the anchorage on the west side of the island. Can tolerate the rocking and rolling. Our concern was at low tide...had 6 inches of water under the keel with 2-3 foot waves moving DISCOVERY up and down. In the morning, I grabbed the paper charts to look for a better anchorage. Suggested to Carl that we move to Shroud Cay. Matt and Marty called on the VHF radio---they had come to the same conclusion. A short 10 nautical mile trip over to Shroud where we found deep water close to shore for protection from waves wrapping around the point. Put a second anchor out to control our "sailing at anchor". Using a second anchor has become standard procedure when the winds are above 15 knots. It isn't for holding but for controlling.

This was the first time we stopped at Shroud Cay. Shroud Cay has several shallow mangrove creeks that you can use the dinghy to explore. It was too rough to take the creek to the north creek where a hermit built an area called "Camp Driftwood". Matt and Marty explored this creek in the past---recommend we explore it next time. Took the dinghies up the creek on the southwest part of the cay all the way to the ocean on the east side. Stayed at Shroud for two nights. Happy Hour on DISCOVERY one night; Happy Hour on RUNAWAY the other night.

Getting in the dinghies to run up the southern creek. On a falling tide so had to make sure the route would be open for the return trip.


Did not have a map, chart or guidebook to tell us which branch was deep and would it lead us to the ocean. Turn turn right or left? Yes, you look for the darkest blue water and head east! Lucked out ....found the ocean and returned with plenty of water to run the dinghy engines.


From Shroud Cay we sailed 32 nautical miles to Big Majors Spot. The wind was east northeast at 23 to 25 knots. We "flew" with a double reefed main and our small jenny. Encountered one squall which gave us a quick rinse. Salt-free for about 10 minutes.

Stayed at Big Majors for the rest of the month. John and Wendy on WINDERMERE invited us over for dinner the night after our arrival. Taught them how to play Sequence. In return, invited them over to our boat and they taught us to play Biriba (card game). Helped clean up the middle beach on Big Major Spot. Hurricane Irene pushed the sand up on the beach forming a berm and covered the area behind the berm of sand with dead sea grass. Raked up the dead beach grass (burned half of it and left the other half for kindling ). Raked the berm of sand back. Hauled rocks to form a firepit. Ray (NO AGENDA) and John (WINDERMERE) built benches around the firepit. Two posts were placed near the shore with a line between for dinghies to tie up. Later in the month, PIRATE arrived with two sun umbrellas and a wooden picnic table. In addition to the benches around the firepit, a bench was built under the tree to get out of the sun. The latest addition is a tall bar for food and drinks.

Attended the Grand Opening of Middle or Pirate Beach. On the right is Bonnie and Roger (KOKOMO). Left is Matt and Marty.


Head over to Staniel Cay in the dinghy a couple times a week. Rhonda at the Yellow House is still baking bread ....white, wheat, cinnamon raisin or coconut. Isles General has a good selection of fresh fruits and vegetables when the CAPTAIN C arrives (about every 10 days) from Nassau. The fresh fruits and vegetables are gone in a day or two. The Blue Store is open and has a good selection of dry goods (including Snicker Bars).

Photos from Staniel Cay. Flowers, the Yellow House and the Blue Store!

General routine while anchored at Big Majors, write email, clean, and socialize with other cruisers. Invited Jan & Diane (HIPPO) over for spaghetti. Diane made a cherry cheesecake for dessert---actually she made two of them. The first one tipped over in her refrigerator so she made a second one. Spent a couple afternoon with Diane making jewelry. She helped me start a bracelet using tiny beads. I don't have a pattern to follow so I am winging it. Jan and Diane invited us for lunch one day. Another boat caught (killed) an 8 pound lobster and gave the legs to Jan. Jan baked bread and steamed the lobster legs--- feed the four of us. Delicious. While Diane and I worked on jewelry, Carl worked on the problem we have with the single side band radio. Jan has the exact same radio so Carl brought Jan's remote head over to DISCOVERY to replace ours.....the problem was still there so the problem isn't related to the head. Carl brought the radio itself over.....the problem disappeared (could be the radio itself). Carl checked all the connectors in our radio. He also noticed the main wire's connection didn't look good so he removed it and put a new connector on. The radio started to work normally for 4 days. Thought the problem was solved but it started acting up again.

Organized a progressive dinner for Christmas Eve with three other boats (KOKOMO, RUNAWAY and HIPPO). Met for Happy Hour at 5:00 PM in our individual dinghies behind RUNAWAY. Tied the dinghies together. Hoped to see the green flash at sunset. No way, a big dark cloud moved over Big Majors moving west at sunset blocking sunset. In fact, we thought we'd have to cut Happy Hour short because of rain but lucked out. Bonnie and Roger brought a plate of appetizers for everyone to share. Next we climbed on RUNAWAY where Matt and Marty served an excellent soup and a delicious salad. The main course was on DISCOVERY....pork tenderloin, risotto and a broccoli casserole that Bonnie brought. Lots of great conversation. Finally we headed over to HIPPO for cherry cheesecake, coffee ice cream, and dark roast coffee. It was a fun night.

Happy Hour in the dinghies . Matt and Marty on the left. Jan and Diane on the right. Last picture is Carl and I with Roger in the background wearing his Christmas present ....a Johnnie Unitas shirt.


Pictures taken during the main course.


Dessert time. I made a batch of Scotcheroos to supplement Diane's cherry cheesecake and coffee ice cream.


Christmas Morning I made caramel rolls. Lazed around until 3:00 PM when WINDERMERE picked us up in their big dinghy (has a 50 HP engine) for a run over to Sampson Cay Marina for dinner. Ray and Susan (NO AGENDA) joined us at Sampson Cay. Sampson Cay has an excellent chef, Romero, who uses interesting spices for a Caribbean Flair. Dinner included an excellent dessert bar. Oh so many selections.

Christmas Dinner at Sampson Cay Marina with NO AGENDA and WINDERMERE.


Rode in NO AGENDA's dinghy with Ray, Susan, John and Wendy over to Compass Cay to hike with Susan from EXODUS. I had never been over to Compass Cay. It is a beautiful island with a marina, several beaches and great hiking trails. We were about 10 minutes into the hike when it started to rain. Found shelter under a tree for a couple minutes but then.... just walked in the rain. I love to hike and it was fun to meet another cruiser.

Tim and Linda on MATSU invited us over for a drink on their boat. They had company for about a week......the company had just left so they were decompressing. Tim and Linda were leaving the following day for Black Point. Before they left for Black Point, gave them a copy of the eBook library. Will probably see them in George Town before they head to the Eastern Caribbean.

TILT arrived. They stropped by to deliver packages that arrived for us in Vero Beach after we left. Sat in the cockpit to visit for a while. Headed over to Staniel Cay to see April and Dean (APRIL FIRST) who we haven't seen since October of 2005 in Elizabeth City, NC. April and Dean have wanted to cruise to the Bahamas since 2006 but could not because of health issues. Dean finally received clearance from his doctor to cruise so here they are. After seeing Dean and April we headed to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for the Annual Benefit Auction and Captains' Party (i.e., free food and drink). Did not hear how much money was raised from the auction except that this year's auction was the most successful one to date. The food provided by the Regatta Committee was outstanding--fried fish, grilled chicken, Bahamian mac n cheese, lobster salad, conch soup, conch fritters and conch salad. Drinks provided--Kalik beer, Rum Punch and soft drinks. Had a great time.

Photos taken during the Captains' Party at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Food and drink provided by the Regatta Racking Committee. Two lines--one for food and one for drink. People eat standing or sitting on the docks. I took pictures of the marine life while eating my dinner.


On the left is a photo of the food and drink. On the right is Craig being interviewed by a lady from the TV station in Nassau. She asked how long Craig had been coming to Staniel Cay and Why!!!


WINDERMERE and their guests (two sons and one of the son's girlfriend) enjoying their dinner.


During the day of New Years Eve, watched the Bahamian Class A Races between Lady Muriel, Tida Wave and Original Courageous. Tida Wave walked away with all three races. New Years Eve attended a Happy Hour on middle beach. Lots of boaters attended. Had a beach fire and met some new people. Over to KOKOMO for a couple hours after the beach party. Left at 10 PM ....showered and off to bed. Missed the fireworks.

Photos taken during the Class A Bahamian Boats. Notice when going to weather the crew is out on a board called "the pride".


Pictures from the New Years Eve Beach Party.


A fantastic month in the Bahamas. The weather this December was so different from last year. Last year, we had a strong cold front about every 3-4 days. This year .....hardly any cold fronts (three--Lucaya, Devils Hoffman and Big Majors a few days before Christmas) . Without cold fronts, the trades build and the easterly winds made it a challenge for cruisers who are moving east and south Except for Normans Cay----found comfortable anchorages. Also, without the cold fronts brining the cold northerly air---enjoyed temperatures in the 80's every day. Only a few rain showers which were welcome because the rain rinses all the salt off the boat. Seems like there are fewer cruisers this year but then the weather has not made it easy to get across the gulfstream.

Pictures taken when the front passed through Big Majors. The photo on the left show weather from the west. Photo on the right was taken when the boat was facing north.

Submitted by:

Marilyn Thoreson
January 01, 2012