Leaving Government Cut the skyline of Miami begins to shrink in the distance.
This bird rode for with us for a while in the Gulf Stream. We could almost touch her. I think she is a Northern Parula, a kind of warbler. I hope she got home.
This building with the interesting roofline is Momma and Papa T’s Beach Club on Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands. The door was open, and the beer was cold.
Bill is prowling about looking for conch in the shallow grass flats at Normans Cay. The ditched drug running aircraft we snorkeled on during our first trip here is underwater near the top left of the picture.
We kept and cleaned two of the conch he found. Bill is holding one shell and one corpse. The other is on our stern seat which doubles as a fish cleaning table. These huge snails just drip slime.
Beaches, beaches, beaches. That is what these trips are about. These are the sand flats just north of Hawksbill Cay at nearly low tide. Ten football fields would not begin to cover them.
This second beach picture is at Shroud Cay. Use Google Maps and search for spot where we anchored, 24°32.882'N 076°47.479'W , zoom in, choose satellite view, and go northeast to find the beach on the east side of the island.
A big Bahamian hello to you all. It has been quite a while since I last posted an entry. We have been without internet for the last two weeks.
When I last wrote we were anchored off Miami’s South Beach. We had a plan for traveling to the Bahamas. We would sail from No Name Harbour on Key Biscayne leaving for Bimini at 3 or 4 in the morning. In order to do that, we would have to move the boat from South Beach to No Name. But, before we could do that we needed to do the laundry, fill the boat’s water and fuel tanks, buy the last of the beer and Diet Cokes that would fit in the quarter berth, shop for groceries, get some gin… you know, the usual departure list. It would be a busy but doable day. I did our laundry early in the morning of April 1st while Bill got the water, gin, and fuel. The laundry was finished before Bill went to get the last jug of fuel. I still needed to get the groceries, so Bill dropped me off at the dinghy landing spot to walk to the Publix grocery store. He took my clean laundry back to Irish Eyes and picked up the empty fuel jug. Bill got the fuel, took it to the boat, and was coming to get me at Publix when our plans fell apart.
Some of you have probably heard Bill say “Want to make God laugh? Just make a plan”. Well, while I was in the grocery store and Bill was riding in the dinghy, the previously beautiful sunny skies clouded over and a huge thunderstorm developed with lightning and drenching rain. Bill was trapped in the dinghy under a bridge, mostly dry but being slowly dripped on. I was outside Publix waiting on him. I talked to a nice guy, who had jogged to the grocery store and was afraid to jog back in the rain for fear of getting his cell phone wet and to an older gentleman, who did not like to drive in the rain. The jogger was from Raleigh originally, and the older gentleman was interested in how we lived on a sailboat. The bench was dry and the company entertaining. Poor Captain Bill; he got soaked. By the time Bill made it to Publix it was 2pm. It was still raining, thundering, lightening and the wind was blowing hard. We ate our very late lunch at the Publix deli, waited around some more and finally gave up and walked and dinghied in the rain back to Irish Eyes.
We were both soaked and cold, but a hot rum toddy (or two) quickly warmed us up and restored our spirits. It was after 4pm by this time and still storming, so the trip to No Name Harbor was cancelled and our plans were ruined. We were worried about when we would be able to leave Florida. The next day, Tuesday, was just about the only good weather day to cross the Gulf Stream and the day after, Wednesday, was the only good one to proceed farther south in the Bahamas. If we left a day late, on Wednesday, we could make it to Bimini, but the approaching cold front would catch us there, and we would be stuck. What to do, what to do? I made a suggestion that we could leave the next morning from Miami, sail overnight and arrive at Great Harbor Cay in the Berry Islands early on Thursday beating the cold front. Captain Bill was dubious. We went to bed without making a decision.
After a night’s sleep, Bill decided my idea was his idea. We pulled the dinghy out of the water and pulled up our anchor around 10am. There were not any cruise ships in the Miami harbor, so we breezed out Government Cut and left Miami behind.
The wind was light, and we were motor sailing, enjoying the indigo water in the Gulf Stream and the sunshine. We were several miles out to sea when a little grey and yellow bird appeared in the cockpit. It was not afraid of us at all, even landing on the bird book I was using to identify it. Bill gave it a section of a tangerine which the bird pecked at for a bit. It stayed with us for about an hour and then flew away. I decided it was migrating and just needed a rest and a little snack.
Our overnight trip was uneventful. When the sun came up we could see the beautiful blue water of the Bahamas. We arrived at the Great Harbor Marina about lunch time. The customs and immigrations officer came to the marina. We did not have to go to him. The strong cold front was still coming our way, so we stayed in the marina for three days. There were about half a dozen boats there either just arriving in the Bahamas or headed back home. We enjoyed meeting several couples over food at the marina, and one night we walked into Bullocks Harbour and had our first conch dinner of the trip at Coolie Mae’s wonderful restaurant.
The cold front finally came through on Friday with wind and rain. It was gone by Saturday morning, so we left Great Harbour Cay headed north to the top of the Berry Islands then south on their east side to Little Harbour Cay. The trip around the north end of the island put us in the Northwest Channel which was anything but smooth. The waves were huge. We had to go around two cruise ships anchored off their prettified private islands. I do not know why cruise lines do not use the local businesses; it seems so wrong to build a fake Bahamas when the real one is right there. We made it to our anchorage off Little Harbour Cay where there was not a thing in sight but sand and water.
The next leg of the trip took us to West Bay on New Providence Island. Coming out of Little Harbour was terrifying. We had the tide going out and the wind blowing in, that meant monstrous waves. The bow of Irish Eyes would point at the sky one moment and at the center of the earth the next. It felt like we were not moving. Finally, we made it out and sailed southeast toward New Providence Island and Nassau in much more sedate (?) 4 and 6 foot waves. A few hours later we were anchored in the calm waters of West Bay several miles from Nassau enjoying the faint Reggae music from the two bars on shore.
In the morning after the sun rose high enough to see the coral heads in our path, we left West Bay and motored upwind to Highborne Cay. It was a long day, but we made up for it by staying at Highborne for three days. After lounging about like snails the whole first day, we were finally rested enough from our labors to launch the dinghy and do some beach walking.
On these trips to the Bahamas we are slaves to the weather. We basically live outside, and the weather controls everything. On our third day at Highborne Cay the wind changed in direction a bit, waves entered our anchorage, and the boat began to roll, so we moved a whopping 6 miles to Normans Cay and anchored off the west side beach. We dinghied around the south end of Normans to the sand flats on the east side of the island. The scenery was spectacular. Bill decided he wanted to go conching. Conching is not hard, the conchs put up no resistance, they don’t move fast, you can easily catch them (You just lean over and pick it up.), but finding them is another story. Bill found five conchs. (I found lots of shells.) We kept the two largest conchs. Bill did a good job getting the slimy things out of their shells, and I did an okay job of cooking them. Other than to have had the experience, I think I will continue to have my conch in a restaurant.
It was time to move on, and we made another “long” trip of about six miles to Shroud Cay. Shroud is in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. The island is an uninhabited ring of rock with mangrove swamps and sand flats in the middle and with beaches scattered around the outside. There are several creeks that pass through the island winding their way through the mangroves and past the sand flats to beaches at each end. We spent six days touring the creeks, snorkeling on offshore coral heads, and beach walking. Bill got water from a well that is almost at the highest spot on the island, and he dug up nearly a hundred pounds of scrap iron from below the sand on one beach. No gold, just iron. It was great.
This year we do not have a schedule to keep, so we are moving slowly down the Exuma island chain. Hawskbill Cay was our next port-of-call; another six mile trip. Like Shroud Cay there is not a thing there but water and sand. Bill and I took several dinghy trips around to the north side of the island to explore the caves, sand flats, and beaches. We had a rainy day on Monday April 22. It gave Bill a chance to use his fancy-dancy rainwater collecting system. We topped off our tanks and put another 25 gallons of fresh water in jugs. Several boats came and went while we were at Hawksbill, but a large motor yacht was there when we got there and was still there when we left. Someone on that boat apparently had a birthday on our last day. They had a party on the beach complete with balloons, a bonfire, dinner ashore, and fireworks. While we did not receive invitations to the party, we did enjoy the fireworks.
We left Hawksbill Cay on Wednesday, April 24 sailed for the Emerald Rock mooring field at Warderick Wells Cay; the Exuma Land and Sea Park Headquarters. The wind was strong from the northeast, and we were headed south, so it was an exhilarating sail. The fifteen mile trip only took us just three hours!
One of the nice things about the Park Headquarters is wifi. We will spend a couple of days here catching up on our email, internet banking, and web surfing, finding our sign on Boo Boo Hill, and enjoying the beaches and trails.
Hope you are all as well and happy as we.