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: