Last Days in the Bahamas (for now)

On June 22, we sailed to Nassau from Hawksbill Key on the genoa sail, 58 miles in 9 hrs (it would have been 43 miles without tacking). We anchored in West Bay, on the western tip of Nassau. Since we were staying 2 nights, we had time to reprovision the boat and decided to walk to Solomon’s Fresh Market 5 miles away. Needless to say that turned out to be too much of a hike, but after about 45 minutes, a car that was going the other way stopped and the very friendly lady offered to take us there. She had just been shopping there herself, and went back just to take us. That was so nice of her! In the shopping plaza we had a nice lunch and then shopped, and the free Solomon’s car took us back to the beach. Great service! Back at the boat, we hoped for a sunset, but the clouds covered it again.

On June 24 we set sail for Andros across the “Tongue of the Ocean”, as they call the deep water between Nassau and Andros. We were determined to sail again (even without our broken main sail), so we tacked. 3 to 5 foot swells made this a very uncomfortable sail, as we cannot balance the sailboat without the main sail, so the waves keep throwing us around. 8 hours later we pulled into Morgans Bluff on the northern end of Andros and anchored. Robbie, the owner of the only other boat there came to say hello on his dinghy, and we joined him and his mate for a beer at the bar on the water and Donovan, a local friend of Robbie’s, promised to organize a rental car for us for the next day. We then walked along the extremely busy harbor, the huge mailboat had come in that day.

There we met Shelton, who ended up taking us in his car to Nicholls Town, where he knows a locals bar with good food. The lady there cooked up some very good cracked conch, and we had a nice dinner together with Shelton. Robbie showed up a little later too, and we all had a really fun night. We got back to our boat just in time to see the mailboat leave.

The next morning we went to the dock to get fuel, and Virgil approached us. He had been sent by Donovan to drive us around. Not what we expected (we were expecting a rental car), but this was just fine. He offered to take us 40 miles to Fresh Creek, where the Androsia factory is, a local Andros clothmaking company that produces local batik. The drive took us through the freshwater marshlands, but there was not much to see. When we got there an hour later, the factory and store were closed. It was Friday, and they weren’t going to open again until Monday, so we drove all the way back. We stopped at the Mennonite farm to get some local produce and eggs, and got there at 12:15. Needless to say they are closed from noon to 3 pm. We stopped along the way for a visit with Shelton, and next up was lunch at a locals place that Virgil recommended in the Lowe settlement, “Melly’s Place”. All along the shore, we saw large piles of conch shells that had done their duty as local food.

Over lunch we looked at the weather forecast, and decided we had to leave the next day for out 3 day trek back to Florida. This was very disappointing as we had hoped to see more of Andros, but it was more sensible to use the weather window we had. After all, we were a full month into hurricane season already. We called the customs office about checking out of the Bahamas, and they asked us to come to the airport which was a 20 minute drive away. So, back to the boat to get our paperwork, and Virgil took us to the airport. When we got there, they told us a customs officer was waiting for us back in Morgans Bluff (where our boat was), so 20 minutes back there. What a wild goose chase! We managed to clear customs, and went back to the boat to prepare for the early morning crossing of the Bahamas Banks and the Gulf Stream, which would take 3 days.

On June 26, we left Morgans Bluff on Andros to sail across the Bahama Banks towards Castle Rock. A beautiful rainbow was our Bahamas goodbye.

We sailed 50 miles for 11 hours. We anchored on the banks and had a really rough night, but we were too tired to keep going. The next day we sailed again, this time 38 miles in 8 hours, and anchored in our spot from last year behind Castle Rock.

A huge Loggerhead Turtle swam right up to the boat, and stuck around for about an hour. The yellow thing next to the turtle is a big Ramora, a fish that sticks to big ocean animals for a free “ride” and feeds on their leftovers.

We had a good nights’ sleep until the alarm woke us at 4:30 for our Gulf Stream Crossing. Five minutes later the anchor alarm went off too and showed us dragging. We started pulling the anchor, but soon realized it was completely stuck under something, so we couldn’t leave. We decided we would wait until sunrise, and then Rob would scuba dive down to anchor at 30 feet to see if he could get it loose. We were very happy when that worked (it was stuck under a metal piece of wreck), and we finally set off at 6:45 am.

About an hour into the trip (we were now motoring as the wind was directly behind us and we did not want to tack across the Gulf Stream), a big squall with some heavy wind and lots of rain hit us, so we got another free deck wash :-). Here it is behind us.

The rest of the ride was fairly easy, we dodged a few more squalls, and the last 2 hours of crossing we had 5 – 6 foot swells, but Ronya rode them nicely. We checked into the US with the CBP app, and at 8 pm we had our anchor down in Key Largo, after more than 13 hours and 78 nautical miles. And Miss Wilson radioed Sea Tow to let Steve know we had arrived safely:

More Exumas Land & Sea

It has been a long time since a blog update, as we have had almost no internet for about 3 weeks now. Luckily I am keeping track of everything in Ronya’s logbook, and Miss Wilson is doing a great job helping me!

On June 2, we lifted anchor at Blackpoint on Great Iguana Cay to head south to Little Farmers Cay. As we rounded the corner of the Bay, we realized that with the wind direction, we would not be able to sail there, so we headed north and back to Staniel Cay. We had heard about a cruisers’ beach in the Bay of Pigs and had wanted to check that out anyways. After we anchored at Big Majors again, we made contact with some of the other cruisers there that we had met in Blackpoint, and spent a fun evening on the cruisers’ beach with old and new friends.

The next few days, we ran some errands and enjoyed some great company. We had our propane (for cooking and baking) refilled, did some laundry, and reprovisioned some fresh fruit, vegetables, beer and cat food. We had a pizza night on Ronya with some new friends, hung out at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for drinks and bar food, had lunch on “First Edition”, our new friend Peter’s all-electric solar boat, and spent more time at cruisers’ beach.

On June 7, we left Staniel Cay and sailed 5 miles north to Sampson Cay. The next day was a rainy one, so we hung out on the boat, made some R/O water and caught some rainwater, and cleaned the boat inside and out. With the weather nice again, we paddled and kayaked through the Sampson Cay flats and around South Sampson Cay.

We also dinghied back to Staniel Cay for some last provisions on the western channel route, and hiked on the rocks on the western side, where we found a beautiful beach, lots of cliffs, and some impressive saltwater pools.

And, finally, another beautiful sunset, after the clouds had been covering the sunset for days and days!

On June 11, we sailed a little further north to Pipe Cay. We paddled/kayaked over to the beach and explored the Decca Station ruins, then hiked west to Pipe Creek with its impressive sand flats.

The next day, we took the dinghy around the south side of Pipe Cay and into Pipe Creek. The colors of the water inside there are absolutely astonishing! We did a quick drift snorkel on a small reef, towing our dinghy, but the current was so strong it was a REALLY quick snorkel.

On June 13, we lifted anchor to go a little further north to Cambridge Cay, which is the southernmost island of the Exumas Land & Sea Park. As usual, we had to sail a few miles out into the banks to avoid the sand bars, then sail back in to the islands, this time into Conch Cut. The current through the cut is very strong, and the southern approach to Cambridge Cay channel is through a coral head bank in the cut. After turning in there, all we could see were coral heads (and the visibility was not good since it was overcast), so we aborted that attempt (we are sailing our house after all). We went out of the cut to the Exuma Sound and headed north on the outside to check out the norther entrance to Cambridge Cay Channel through Bell Cut. The current was very strong, more that 2 knots, but we managed to get in and finally secured a Park mooring ball in the channel. What a relief!

The next day had us paddling to the beaches at Cambridge Cay and hiking the different trails across the island, east to west. The island is private, but it is allowed to hike if you stay on the tiny trails.

Towards the evening when the tide had gone out, we took the dinghy to the Rocky Dundas, two small islands in the channel that have some cool caves you can snorkel into. The light filters in through holes in the top which makes for a really nice athmosphere.

We also couldn’t miss the snorkeling, so we set out the next day to snorkel the “Aquarium” and another small plane wreck. On the way back to the boat, Anya got to drift snorkel along a spectacular unmarked reef we just happened to notice from the dinghy.

Another sight in this area is “Rachel’s Bubble Bath” on Compass Cay, so that was our destination on June 16. At high tide we left the dinghy on the beach at Compass Cay and walked up the almost dry riverbed to the eastern side of the island.

At the end of this riverbed is a large pool of water that has the waves splashing into it from the sound, which makes for a fun bubble bath every time a wave hits.

On June 17, we left the mooring field at Cambridge Cay to sail further north and back to Warderick Wells. We anchored at Emerald Rock again, and the next day took the dinghy to the Park Headquarters to pay for our mooring days. We also wanted to go back to Pirate’s Lair as there was supposed to be good snorkeling off the beach there, so we took the dinghy and repeated our hike to the eastern shore, armed with snorkel gear this time. Once we snorkeled far enough south from the beach, we found the corals, and they were really nice. We saw some turtles and a huge Caribbean Reef Shark.

We then took the dinghy to some more recommended snorkel spots (Malabar Cays and Emerald Rock), but we were not impressed.

The next day (June 19) we lifted anchor to sail to our last stop in the Exumas, Hawksbill Cay, where we took a park mooring ball.

We dinghied to the northern beach, from where we hiked across the hills to the eastern shore and a beautiful beach there. Floating in the surf was a big inflatable trampoline that looked brand new, so we deflated it, dragged it to high ground, and left it there to dry and see if we could pick it up the next day. The following day started with making water and baking bread, then back to retrieve the trampoline. We actually managed to carry it over the hill and back to the dinghy on the western shore. It later ended up cleaned and folded into a sailbag and stowed in our shower next to our old dinghy motor ;-). We hiked some more, along the cliffs of the eastern shoreline and to the ruins of a plantation from the 18th century. There was just a few overgrown walls still standing, and it was hard to image that people actually lived here so long ago… Towards sunset time, we climbed the hill next to the anchorage for a great 360 degree view. In our selfie you can see Ronya in the background 🙂

Our last day in the Exumas was spent riding the dinghy and trying to find some reefs to snorkel on, but unfortunately we weren’t successful with that. So we just went for a long walk along one of the beautiful beaches on Hawksbill Cay, and Anya climbed to the top of the hill again to get a tiny cell signal to call her mother for her birthday. The evening was spent relaxing, as we were going to get up right at dawn to sail back to New Providence / Nassau Island. Good bye Exumas!