Published: January 28th 2011January 28th 2011
Our long awaited crossing of the Gulf Stream was probably the best one we have had so far. The winds were light and we had to motor sail nearly all the way but the stream was benign. The seas were 2’ or less and the left over northerly swell was only about 5’ and about 10 seconds apart. We spotted the tops of the container cranes at Freeport Grand Bahamas about 08:30. They are visible about 25 miles from land since they must be about 120’ in the air.
We docked at the Port Lucaya fuel dock, topped off our tanks and then went up to check in with Customs and Immigration. The Customs lady was there and had us cleared in and issued our one year cruising permit within 30 minutes. However, the immigration officer was at the airport and was reported to be headed our way “directly”. Directly is a Bahamian word that means whenever he feels like it. In our case it was two hours later. He granted us a 90 day stay and said we would need to renew our papers if we wanted to stay longer than 90 days.
it was nearly 4:00 PM and the sun was heading towards the horizon. We had just enough time to make the 4 mile run to Ocean Reef resort, our intended destination. WE called our friends Doug & Sharon and told them we were on our way. By the time we arrived they had secured our slip assignment and had a group of cruisers standing on the dock to catch our lines and get us securely moored.
As luck would have it we had just enough time for a quick swim in the pool before it was time for a prearranged cruiser’s “Pot Luck” dinner that had been planned for that evening. After being awake for most of the previous 30 hours we were happy not to have to cook dinner. Plus it gave us time to catch up with many of the cruisers that we had met in the Bahamas on previous trips.
The next day Cameron went out lobster hunting with Doug & Sharon while Nancy went with Sharon’s brother and his wife for a beach walk. It was a successful hunt with Doug finding two lobsters and Cameron one. It was enough to make some real
tasty hors doers before dinner.
We spent ten days at Ocean Reef before went found the weather window we were looking for to head further south and East into the outer islands. While at Ocean Reef, we played tennis most mornings, enjoyed the hot tub and pool and attended the various events put on for the guests like movie night, karaoke and bingo. One evening a couple that had recently quit cruising and bought a large house across from the resort on a beautiful point of land, invited all of the cruisers at Ocean Reef to come for a party. Our hosts had spent the past 9 months working on their new home and wanted to share their improvements with someone. Each couple brought an appetizer and our hosts provided plenty of island drinks. Their home was quite large and furnished in a contempory style.
We spent Thanksgiving in the company of our Canadian friends. We were the only Americans staying at Ocean Reef. Despite the fact that Canadians celebrate the holiday in October, they were up for a big turkey dinner and a chance to party. Sharon’s brother and sister-in-law had rented one of the timeshare units
so we used that as a place for the big dinner. It worked out well as everyone worked together to prepare the dinner.
On the 26th of November we got a good forecast and left at first light for Spanish Wells, just west of Eluerthra Island. We knew it was more distance than we could cover in the short daylight available this time of year. We sailed well in a 12 knot southerly wind, but by 3:00 PM we decided that our destination for the evening would be a little visited island on the Abaco banks owned by the Disney Corporation called “Castaway Island”. Disney has built a cruise ship facility and does not allow sailors to come ashore. We were only planning a quick overnight rest so it worked for us. The next day we easily made it to Spanish Wells by early afternoon.
Normally, this quaint little fishing village is full of boaters and the secure mooring field is normally very crowded. We were very surprised to find it completely empty when we arrived. I think we were ahead of the curve and most of the sailors headed into the out islands were not this far
south this early. We enjoyed several days here – attended the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony and visited with friend we had made here on earlier visits.
We sailed on the 1st of December and went through a narrow passage called Current Cut. It has the strongest tidal current of any of the cuts in the Bahamas. This time we were trying to pass through the cut against a 3.5 knot current. This was a little nerve racking but some times the current here can run up to 6-7 knots. Once through the cut we decided to take a short cut across the Yellow Banks and proceed directly to the northern Exumas. This is a difficult passage because of the numerous coral heads that populate this area. Some as close to the surface as 2-3 feet depending on the tide. Luckily we had a perfect day with clear skies and the sun directly overhead so we could see the heads and steer around them. Our course track looked like a corkscrew because we continually changing course for about 3 hours. Hopefully, the video I shot of this is attached.
We arrived at Highborne Cay about 15:00 and anchored
inside the harbor. This was the first Cay in the Exumas that we visited on our initial trip to the Bahamas in 2007 and now we were retracing our steps. I had just finished reading a book entitled “Life on a Rock” which details the adventures of a couple that managed Highborne Cay for four years. After going ashore for a short walk and visiting the marina, we moved outside the harbor and anchored with several other boats on the west side of the island. We were surprised to see the ketch “Mr. Mac” anchored there. They had crossed from the States the same night we did and we spent a boring 2 hours in Lucaya with them waiting for the immigration official to arrive so we could check in. After dinner we shared dessert with the crew of Mr. Mac and caught up on where we had been since Lucaya.
Early the next morning we departed the anchorage with a building NW wind and some very ugly squalls to our North. We wanted to get to a more secure harbor before the predicted cold front moved through the area. Our intended place to hide was the Exumas Land
& Sea Park at Warderick Wells. This is a great anchorage with very secure moorings for the night. We made it in just before noon and we met the crews of several other boats already moored at the park. After lunch I used a piece of driftwood already aboard to make a sign for Booby Hill. This is a long tradition at the park to leave your boat name on a sign at the peak of Booby Hill.
From Warderick Wells, we continued south along the Exuma chain. Our next stop was Staniel Cay. We anchored just off of the famous Thunderball Grotto where part of the James Bond movie was filmed. This is an underwater cavern that is accessible only at low tide and slack current. Unfortunately, this was not a good week to find those conditions. However, we did have a nice walk around the town and did a little Christmas shopping at the Staniel Cay YC.
From Staniel Cay we headed down to a place we have never visited before called Little Farmers Cay. It is one of the few anchorages in the Exumas that offered us protection from the West winds predicted for the
next few days. This harbor has very fast currents that rip through the anchorage because it is very close to one of the “cuts” between Exuma Sound and the Banks. Therefore, we rented a mooring from “Ocean Cabin”, the bar and restaurant on the island. The mooring was very near a shoreline made up of what is known locally as “Iron Shore”. This is a very sharp rocky limestone coastline. I did not sleep very well not knowing what the condition of the mooring tackle. We had no problem overnight but a couple weeks later we heard about another large catamaran that was on one of these moorings that gave way in the middle of the night and the boat went up against the “Iron Shore “ and tore a hole in their bow.
On Sunday December 5th we had a perfect forecast to sail the final leg from Little Farmers to Georgetown. The winds were light out of the west and the sun was shining. WE made the 35 mile run in about six hours. Upon arriving at Georgetown harbor we were welcomed by several of our cruising friends, including “Nice & Easy”, the boat we met near
Annapolis on the first day of our trip south. They had completed their voyage to Georgetown the previous day.
There are more photos below