We have two blue plastic pool saddles with us this year. They are a square piece of foam with cutouts for your legs. You sit on them, float in the water, and drink beer. If only they had a cup holder.
Several islands in the Bahamas have iguanas. These two handsome fellows were on Leaf Cay north of Lee Stocking Island.
Bill collects beach junk. In the top picture he has a stand up paddleboard he found washed up on the rocks. It was too heavy to carry back to the boat. On the left is a mornings work; old rope, torn nets, fishing floats and (get this) a fresh washed up honeydew melon. He tried to eat the melon. On the right is another plastic fishing float. That thing is now tied to our boat's lifelines.
At the north anchorage off Hawksbill Cay in the Exumas, the mega yacht Wheels had set up this collection of beach toys for their charter guests. There was a sliding board, jet skis, kayaks, chairs, umbrellas, tents, paddleboards, a buffet lunch, a photographer, and a "dinghy" with four 400 hp outboards to move it all.
While the yacht's guests were enjoying their toys (actually they mostly sat in the chairs), we watched two sea turtles forage on the bottom near our boat coming up for air every five minutes or so. During the ten years we have been coming to the Bahamas on Irish Eyes, the turtles have become both more numerous and larger.
Atop Boo Boo hill is a collection of driftwood signs left by cruisers over the years in hopes of being granted fair winds and a safe return.
This is our sign resting among the others.
Sometimes you don't need the Weather Channel to know bad weather is coming. This thing contained 30 kt wind and an inch and a half of rain.
I like sunsets.
This is one of dozens of parrotfish on the reef at Sandy Cay in the Abacos...
...and this is some elkhorn coral not far away from the paotfish.
Hello, from Marsh Harbour, Abaco. We are now headed north, but slowly, waiting for more settled weather to sail back to the States.
We hung around in George Town to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a cruisers’ beach potluck on Flip Flop Beach. It was well attended by both humans and mosquitoes. The beach was recently sold to a developer with big plans, so this may have been the last party on the undeveloped beach. The dry laid stone walls, the thatched roof stone bar, the picnic tables, and fire pit that cruisers have built over the years may shortly be replaced with more magnificent structures and ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Or, maybe not. This is the Bahamas, and they are much better with plans than with accomplishments.
Two days after the party, the cloudy, rainy weather left, the skies cleared, the forecast improved, and we left George Town sailing north to Lee Stocking Island. It was not far, just a half day’s sail north of George Town. We had visited Lee Stocking several years ago. It was a nice place and deserved a return visit.
Lee Stocking Island was home to the Caribbean Marine Research Center. There were houses, science laboratories, workshops, storage buildings, an airstrip, and tons of equipment. Several US universities sent students to the center to do studies on coral, fish, and conch and to operate the center’s deep dive submarine. In 2012 NOAA’s research funds were cut, and the center was closed. Everything was just abandoned in place. Today it is a Twilight Zone ghost town.
Much to our surprise, a freight boat came into the research center’s dock while we were there. Men on several small boats came up from Barraterre, a town just to the south, and unloaded boxes on pallets and building supplies then took it all some place on the island in a truck. Kevin and Cris on the sailboat Après Ski told us there are plans to open the center again, but the internet talked of a New Yorker’s plans to develop a "fully sustainable, carbon neutral, five-star sanctuary and wellness retreat" with ”70 luxury hotel villas, 15 private estate villas, an energy farm, spa, organic farm, whole food restaurant…” Who knows? Anyway, for the present we could walk anywhere on the largely untouched island.
While anchored at Lee Stocking Island, we climbed to the top of Perry’s Peak, the tallest point in the Exumas, all of 125 feet. There were great views from the top. We took a dinghy trip to the nearby Normans Pond Cay where there was an abandoned salt pond and lots of young conch. In between our shore trips, we swam in the crystal clear water around Irish Eyes.
We left Lee Stocking Island on May 10th. After a pleasant sail in the Exuma Sound, we anchored off Galliot Cay. There is a pretty beach on the banks side of Galliot Cay and a rocky, plastic trash covered beach on the Exuma Sound side. I walked about on the sand beach and played in the shallow water. Bill, of course, went over to the rocky side to look at the trash. He came back with yet another big plastic float which he proceeded to tie to our boat’s lifelines. This one even had a reflective tape covered post sticking out of it’s top. I have not the faintest idea what he plans to do with all his plastic s___, I mean prizes.
On the day we left Galliot Cay, there had been a local police boat and a Bahamas Defense Forces boat cruising about in the area. They tied their boats up at a rocky spot on the cay, and several people, both uniformed and not uniformed, came ashore and wandered through the trees and shrubs. We later learned that they had arrested two Jamaican drug runners and were looking for their island stash. Thankfully, it was not near where Bill had gone.
Many other boaters had sung the praises of Ty’s Beach Bar on Little Farmer’s Cay. We decided to pick up our anchor and make the five-mile trip to Ty’s for supper. Everything went well until Bill discovered that the 1.7m spot on the chart where he was trying to anchor was only 1.5m deep at low tide. Irish Eyes needs 1.5 meters of water to float, and that 8 inch difference was the difference between floating and sticking. We were stuck. Our engine would not move us. Bill dropped the anchor under the bow and piled 50 feet of chain in a heap beside it on the bottom. It was all very embarrassing. Everyone could see Irish Eyes facing in the wrong direction with her chain hanging limply down while the nearby boats bobbed happily about facing into the wind and pulling on their anchors. We quickly got in our dinghy and went to TY’s Bar to drown our sorrows in a beer and to wait for the tide to rise. We left the boat so quickly, I forgot my camera, so I do not have any pictures of Irish Eyes aground. Ty was very friendly and sold us several beers and some great food for supper. By the time the sun set, Irish Eyes was floating once again. The sunset was spectacular. Irish Eyes was right in the center of all the other people’s photos. At the next low tide in the early morning hours, Irish Eyes’ keel bumped about on the bottom for a short while. Bill slept through it all peacefully. I felt every bump. We left Little Farmers Cay the next morning safely floating on a high and rising tide.
Continuing north, we sailed from Little Farmers Cay to Little Sampson Cay. On our first several trips to the Exumas, Little Sampson Cay was the home of the beautiful Sampson Cay Club and Marina, and we usually stopped there. The people who worked on the island were friendly, the food in the restaurant was good, and the bar was a nice place for an ice cold adult beverage. We have bought food and fuel there, I have done our laundry there, and we have walked all the island’s trails and beaches. For some reason John Malone, the owner of the property, decided several years ago to make it private for his family’s exclusive use. The pretty rental houses are still there, but the fuel dock, marina, restaurant and bar are all closed. ‘No Trespassing’ signs dot the beaches and docks. We anchored Irish Eyes off the cay and took a dinghy trip around the island. Everything was pretty, all was well maintained, but nobody was about. It seemed a shame…
Once again, we were expecting a cold front with some southwest or west winds. We decided to make our way to the Cambridge Cay Mooring field which offered all around protection from the wind and waves. The front did pass over us, but it was not a strong one. Bill and I walked on the beaches, cruised around in the dingy, and swam in the beautiful water.
We left Cambridge Cay continuing north to Warderick Wells, the headquarters cay of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. The day was hot, without a breath of wind. The sky was overcast, and looked as if it would pour rain any minute. We had a reservation in the park’s north mooring field for mooring ball number 14. The sky got darker and darker. It really looked ominous with a great black rolling cloud extending from one horizon to the other. We had just tied to our mooring (second try), and put our things away when the wind suddenly went from zero to thirty knots and the drenching rain came. Bill filled both our water tanks and all five of our 5-gal plastic jugs with fresh rain water while the wind pushed our stern alarmingly close to the rocky shore, but the mooring held use safely away. It was nice to have enough water to be able to have a long fresh water rinse after each swim – more than my normally allotted 2 quarts.
The park allows cruisers to leave behind mementos made from driftwood on the top of Boo Boo Hill, the highest point in the park. We have a large weathered mahogany board there with ‘Irish Eyes’, our names, and the dates of our trips to the Bahamas all carved into the surface. After walking to the top Boo Boo Hill, we started looking for our sign in the enormous pile. Bill was searching through the signs when I saw part of ours right on top. Somehow it had gotten broken in two, perhaps tossed about by last fall’s hurricane Matthew or maybe just stepped on. We found both pieces and headed back to Irish Eyes where Bill repaired the break and carved the tenth date in the sign, MMXVII.
Bill has made four batches of beer on this trip. We had bottled and carbonated a 2 gal batch a couple of days before we arrived in Warderick Wells. A boat I mentioned before, Après Ski, was on the mooring next to us. Bill asked them over to sample his latest brew. They were amazed at how good a non-traditional home brewed beer could be. The next evening, after we put our repaired sign back on the pile, we went to Après Ski to sample Kevin’s homemade conch fritters. They were great.
Our next stop was Hawksbill Cay. When we reached the anchoring spot, it looked like a small resort had sprung up on the white sand beach. A mega yacht, Wheels, had every imaginable toy lined up on the beach for their guests. There were shade tents over beach chairs, an inflatable slide, jet skis, kayaks, paddle boards, and some clear plastic motorized kickboards that would tow a person around while he looked at the coral and fish below. It was all quite a sight. The crew from Wheels put all the stuff up every morning and took it all down and back to the yacht every night. Bill and I walked on the northern sand flats and beaches. Bill walked the trails to both the north and south ocean-side beaches, the Russell Plantation Ruins, and then across the island in three different places.
We spent one night anchored at the southern end of Shroud Cay. At high tide we took a dinghy trip up the southernmost creek on the island to the ocean side beach. I think that might be the prettiest spot in the Exumas. While we were back in Warderick Wells, Bill talked to one of the rangers about three dead tropic birds we had seen earlier in the year on the northern beach at Shroud Cay. The ranger said there was a dog problem on Shroud Cay. The island is uninhabited, so we were not sure what he meant. Walking on the southern beach this visit, we saw lots of dog footprints that did not seem to be with a human footprint. As we were leaving the beach, we saw three medium sized dogs running along the creek. They barked and whined at us from shore, but thankfully they could not get to the dinghy. I guess they had been abandoned on the cay.
Monday, May 23rd was the day to cross Exuma Sound to Eleuthera, the first of several all-day trips. We headed out early, ringing our ship’s bell as we passed the sailboat Wilma. Wilma is home to a young German family with four children. We had first seen them in George Town, newly arrived from the Caribbean, where Bill had given them copies of charts of the Bahamas, and they had given us a box of marzipan from their home town of Lubek. The children love to swim but were out of the water as they were leaving for Nassau. For us it was a light wind day, but we managed to sail most of the way to Rock Sound in Eleuthera motoring only the first and last few miles.
We spent five days in Rock Sound. Bill did the grocery shopping, we ate at Sammy’s Place, and we toured the creeks and beaches around the harbor by dinghy. One beach had lots of Atlantic winged oyster shells in the shallow water. It was a shell we seldom see. I did not pick up all of them, just a few. It was hot and humid in Rock Sound, but the cure was simple. Bill had bought two foam rubber pool saddles before we left the states, and every afternoon we jumped in the water, floated in our saddles, drank beer, and cooled off. Remember all the rainwater in jugs from Warderick Wells? It got put to good use every afternoon.
It was time to go, and the wind was from the south, so we sailed north up the coast of Eleuthera to Governors Harbour. The town there was, as always, pretty and active. We did a little shopping and had dinner at the Buccaneer’s Club. Bill also bought us two huge conch salads from a local man working out of the back of his truck by the harbor. The conch salad served us for the next two suppers.
After only one day in Governors Harbour, we made the all-day trip to the northern tip of Eleuthera stopping to anchor at Royal Island. It was a pleasant trip except it was hot. We beat the heat with a nice swim in the island’s harbor. Despite investments by Jack Nicklaus and Roger Staubach, Royal Island is a failed resort development. There are a clubhouse, one house and several tent hotel rooms that are in use. There are also an abandoned golf course, decaying roads, and idle construction equipment. We found the natural harbor nice even without the planned 200 slip marina.
Still moving north, we made another all-day trip from Royal Island to Lynyard Cay in the Abacos. It was 50 miles in open water with container and tanker ships crossing our path. The wind died during the day, and we motored most of the way. The anchor was down before sunset and fortunately for the cook, the last of the Governors Harbour conch salad was in the refrigerator waiting to be served. The next day we took the dinghy up to Sandy Cay to go snorkeling in the Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park. It was fun to drift in the current looking at the fish and coral below. Bill had installed little stick-in bifocal lenses in my mask, and I was several times quite confused to find the reef had jumped from far away to too close for comfort. (I took them out when we got back to the boat.) We also walked on the Lynyard Cay beaches right up to the newly installed ‘No trespassing beyond this point” signs. In the past we used to walk over to the ocean side beaches. Oh well, change; you have to love it.
We left Lynyard Cay May 31st sailing to Marsh Harbour. I did our laundry while Bill did some grocery shopping.
The weather forecast is not the best for the next several days. According to Chis Parker, the short wave radio weather guru, a cold front is going to “fester” in the Gulf Stream and the northern Bahamas for the next several days with squalls and thunderstorms. It is well protected here in Marsh Harbour, so we will stay a few days to let the weather settle down.