Fred and Karen's Bahamas Trip 2013 travel blog

Southerly on mooring

J&B sailing on a smooth sea

J&B sailing on a sea with big waves

The afternoon of the last posting (three weeks ago), Judy and Bill in their dinghy and Fred and I in ours rode around to the south anchorage at Warderick Wells and snorkeled. The sponges were amazing in size, color and types. While the fish weren’t plentiful we saw some varieties we had never seen before. We were the only people around and it was fun have the place to ourselves.

Since then, we have been on the move. We went from Warderick Wells to Hawksbill Cay, Norman’s Cay, Highbourne Cay, Nassau, Spanish Wells (Eleuthera), Royal Island, Nassau, Grand Harbour, and are now in Lucaya. We have had some great sailing…and a few adventures. We spent one night each at Hawksbill, Norman’s and Highbourne. Hawksbill was memorable because Bill and Fred saw two snakes when they hiked up a hill. Norman’s was a disappointment because we traveled there to go to a beach bar which we discovered hasn’t re-opened since it closed for renovation in 2010. Highbourne has a good store and expensive restaurant which has a great view. The weather was windy and cool (probably in the 80’s but not feeling hot) so we didn’t attempt any snorkeling. The anchorages were not well protected from the southerly winds, so sleeping wasn’t the best. However, we had some good sails on the way to each cay and it is fun to visit the different cays.

Our first stop in Nassau was only two nights and was necessary because Fred and I had to check in with Immigration to get our cruising permits extended. The stop there also allowed us to do some re-provisioning. Some of the little cays have limited grocery stores, but Nassau has a great grocery store near the marina.

From Nassau, we went to Spanish Wells which is off the northern end of Eleuthera. While there we took a fast ferry to Harbour Island on Eleuthera. The ferry ride was notable because we traveled through the reef named the Devil’s Backbone. The channel winds around and through the reef which is close to shore; it was quite exciting…and the fast ferry wasn’t going fast. Harbour Island is known for its pink sand beaches which lived up to their reputation for being beautiful. We found some great bars and good native restaurants. And it was a gorgeous day.

We had hoped to leave Spanish Wells and head to the Abacos. Unfortunately, we had some weather move in that prevented that from happening. We moved from Spanish Wells to Royal Island, hoping that we could pop out of that harbor and sail north to the Abacos. The wind direction wasn’t perfect and it had been blowing so we knew there might be big waves, but we decided that we would try it the next morning. Well, we got out of the harbor and beyond the reef into the ocean and it didn’t take long to decide that the conditions were not to our liking…BIG waves and the wind was just not easterly or southerly enough. So we turned around and headed back to Royal Island. Not being able to head to the Abacos meant that we had to return to Nassau because Bill had to return to the US on business.

While Bill was in the US, Judy, Fred and I managed to get some boat chores done and find time to have some fun. Judy and I did a lot of window shopping in the little shops near the marina and at the big shopping area near the cruise ship docks. There was a great group of boaters at the marina who congregated in the pool in the afternoon and around the pool for cocktails in the evening. We made some great new friends.

The morning after Bill returned to Nassau we left for Great Harbour in the Berry Islands. Fred and I had a really wonderful sail until the wind died in the afternoon and we had to motor the rest of the way. Judy and Bill didn’t have quite as good a morning. The webbing at the head of their genoa tore and the sail ended up in the water. They managed to get the sail back on board and lash it down, but they missed the best sailing conditions of the day. It was about 60 miles to Great Harbour and we didn’t get an early start so we arrived there in the early evening. The good news is that the pass into the anchorage is fairly wide and deep. The bad news is that the anchorage has a relatively small area of deep water surrounded by very shallow water, has a lot of grass and little protection from the wind (we had been told incorrectly that is was a good anchorage). It took both of us two tries to get our anchors set. And then the torrential rains arrived; it was the worst rain, thunder and lightning we had seen in four months. Once the storm passed, the sunset through the clouds was beautiful. But after sunset, it was pitch dark with only a sliver of crescent moon that set by 2130. And after sunset the winds picked up. And our anchor alarm went off which indicated our anchor wasn’t holding. It is hard to describe how dark the anchorage was and how hard it was to determine quite what was going on. We decided that we needed to pull the anchor up (which we knew we could not set again in the dark) and leave the anchorage heading out into the open water which we knew was deep. We successfully negotiated the cut into the ocean. However, then our only option was to sail (actually the conditions were so rough that we felt it was safer to motor) all night and head to Lucaya. While all of this was initially happening, we tried unsuccessfully to raise J&B on the VHF and let them know what was happening. Finally, they realized we weren’t in the anchorage and called us. So they knew we were okay and we knew they would follow us to Lucaya the next day.

Our overnight trip was quite an experience. Autopilot, thankfully, does the steering. And, thankfully, it handles a following sea with pretty decent sized waves really well. It certainly wasn’t a smooth ride. The really interesting thing was the number of ships around us. We didn’t keep a tally but we thing there must have been 18-20 ships that passed us. Our radar worked perfectly (Henry, thanks for the lessons) and we didn’t have any problems avoiding the other vessels. And most of the ships were cruise ships (Saturday night is transit night to and from the US) that were brightly lit…all different colors and arrays of lights…visible for 10 to 12 miles. Figuring all of that out kept us busy and awake until about 1 am. Then the night got a lot darker and lonelier. But the wind died, the current switched to go with us and the ride smoothed out. With the current with us, our speed increased so much that we arrived at the coast off Lucaya way too early. We had to slow down and hang around until the sun was well up so that we could negotiate the channel into the harbor. Once in, we located a marina and were really happy to get the boat tied up, some breakfast, and some sleep. J&B arrived safely, after a good sail, in the afternoon.

From here we will move to West End and from there we will cross the Gulf Stream back to the US…when we have the right weather. Then we will make our way up the East Coast to home in a leisurely manner.

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