So, how about Pandora’s first season in the Bahamas?

It’s hard to believe that we have been here in the Bahamas for three months.  It was on January 18th that we cleared into Nassau and began our journey through the Bahamas.

In some ways it seems like it’s been a lifetime since we crossed over from Ft Lauderdale and yet in some way it feels like we have been here for just a few weeks.  Our perception of time aboard has changed.   For our nearly 40 years of sailing, our trips used to be measured in days, weeks at most.  Now, with months aboard we aren’t in as much of a rush… “Let’s fit in as much as we can into this weekend!”  Now we often stay in the same harbor for a week at a time, something that would have been unthinkable prior to this trip.

We have seen and experienced so much, so many firsts…

Preparing to head out into the “almighty and scary” Gulf Stream was a major focus for months with fretting on what it would be like.  In retrospect, it was not that much of an event, probably because we chose a good weather window and were well prepared.  Actually, some of our longer crossings here in the Bahamas have been much worse.  Go figure.

Brenda’s first overnight sail was a very big deal for her as she had never done that before.  For me, it was my first overnight that involved water so shallow that you could see the bottom, in the dark!!!  And doing this with no aids to navigation made me very anxious.

Having spent my life sailing in the ever-so-well-marked US waters, sailing toward the impossibly narrow Northwest Channel Light in the middle of the night with squalls all around (where there are absolutely some nasty rocks but, alas, no light) was a major fright for me.  Passing between rocks in the wee hours of the morning that would have torn the bottom out of Pandora while she was barreling along on a broad reach made my mouth dry.    The problem was that I did not trust the Explorer Charts and the recommended waypoints to steer toward yet as I had not used them before.

As it turns out, the coordinates, as I had been told many times by those who knew about such things,  were indeed “spot on”.    However, on that first night when we ran from Ft Lauderdale to Nassau to clear in, I have to say that I wasn’t confident and, more than a few times, wondered if our trip to the Bahamas might end up being one of the shortest on record.   For sure, the squalls that hit us off and on that night contributed to my unease.

So, what was the Bahamas like?  Well, that depends…

The Bahamas, or should I say, the Bahamians are very friendly.   The people that we have met have been warm, welcoming and quick with a “good morning”.    Everywhere we have gone we have met folks who are proud of their country and when they learned that it was our first visit, they wanted to know where we had been and what our impressions were.  Mostly, they dress with care, perhaps no better defined than by the uniforms worn by school children and the very natty uniformed police.

We experienced the very rural, perhaps best defined for us by our time in Rum Cay where it’s so remote that the entire island only has about 50 full time residents, all of whom, including the resident dogs, show up in force when the weekly mail boat arrives.  Having grown up near New York, where nearly everything is available 7 days a week, these out-islands were a very new experience.   Imagine having your life and everything you need be dependent on the once-a-week boat showing up?   On some islands the mail boat is more of a “ship”, well, sort of a ship…On others, like this one that services several islands in the Exuma chain, perhaps “boat” is a better word.One way or the other, EVERYTHING that comes to these islands comes from somewhere else.    On top of that, there is precious little to choose from in the tiny shops.  And if you come in a few days after the mail boat, there’s not likely to be much in the way of fresh food left.

When we were preparing for our trip and provisioning the boat back in the US, we did wonder, more than once, if we were overdoing it with all that we were putting on board.  Did we really need 20+ packages of pasta?  (Actually, it turns out that we needed more than that)  We have needed most of what we brought and more.  It’s a good idea to bring what you need to live for months from the states as purchasing it here in the Bahamas was going to be much more expensive, if it’s available at all.  The fact that the government puts a 40% import duty on everything that comes in makes many items a lot more expensive than in the States, if you can get it at all.  And that combined with the complexity of getting it to the islands makes the final cost on the smaller islands very expensive and about twice the cost of the same item in the States.

Making friends has been really great.  Sometimes for a week or more we would “buddy boat” with another couple when we were both going the same way.  When our plans were no longer in sync, we headed our separate ways with a promise too hook up again soon, if not here, perhaps this summer in Maine.

Miles and Loreen aboard Ariel, are a couple that that we enjoyed spending time with.  They shared some of their favorite spots with us including Compass Cay, where we mugged it up with some of the “locals”.  We hope to see them again in Maine and I expect that they will visit us in Essex too.  Harry and Melinda from SeaSchell, took us under their wing and showed us the ropes during the early weeks of our trip and Melinda, along with Maureen from Kaluna Moo made a point of recognizing Brenda’s birthday.  Can you tell that she was a happy birthday girl?  We loved the opportunity to learn new things.  Brenda learned basket making from Nancy on Trumpeter, who shared this Bahamas art form with her.   I have to say that Brenda’s getting pretty good at this and has 9 under her belt to date.  One thing that we haven’t gotten used to is the difficulty of doing laundry.  I won’t admit how long we have gone between cleaning the sheets but it’s sufficient to say that it was WAY TOO LONG.  Getting haircuts has proved to be tough too and it’s not a matter of finding a suitable spot to have your hair cut.  It’s about finding ANY place to have your hair cut.  I went for three months between cuts and by the end, which came a few days ago, I felt that I had a small mammal perched on my head, and it wasn’t a very cooperative mammal.

Speaking of wildlife.    We’ve seen plenty.   In particular, the number of sharks , that we have seen.   Most were the harmless nurse sharks, but not all.  In Rum Cay, in addition to the nurse sharks, there were plenty of Lemon and Bull sharks, and they aren’t selective about what they eat when there’s blood in the water.  Where ever there are fish being cleaned there are sharks.  There are loads of turtles but, alas, they are just too fast to take pictures of.  In some places, we saw literally dozens of the 2′ wonders swimming about.

We really love these little curly tailed lizards.  They are everywhere and are oddly curious, often running up to you for a better look.  These tropical long tail birds are beautiful.  Oddly, there aren’t a lot of birds in the Bahamas but these are some of the most beautiful. Perhaps the most complicated part of being in the Bahamas is the weather.  Because most of the anchorages are only protected from one wind direction, you have to be constantly aware of the coming weather, not just tomorrow but days from now.  There were several times when we found ourselves 25 or 50 miles from protection and only a day or so to get there in advance of nasty, unfavorable winds.  That makes for high anxiety and something that has taken some getting used to.  However, assisted by the ever patient Chris Parker, the weather router that we use, we have made it around just fine and in doing so have had some amazing sailing.  

This photo of Pandora was taken by Jay of  Take Two whom we had never met prior to his presenting us with photos of Pandora, under sail.  Jay came up to our boat a few days ago and presented me with these and several other photos.  He took them when we were sailing across the Northwest Providence Channel about a week ago.  Take Two has been the home of Jay and Tanya for the last 5 years.  They began their journey with their 4 children on board and now have 5 including  a two year old.  Yikes!!!   I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be on board with that many folks.  Check out their blog to learn more about this remarkable family.  

Nice photos from Jay?  I think so.

So what do we think of our visit to the Bahamas?  All and all, it has been great with fabulous weather, warm water and spectacular sunsets.   Yes, there have been challenges but much of that was anxiety about the unknown as it’s all so new to us.  But, now that we have been here for a few months, it all seems clearer.  Well, a little bit clearer anyway…

So, we will make the best of the next few weeks prior to Brenda’s flight back to the states and our “other life” in Essex.  I look forward, with a bit of anxiety, to my 900 mile trip back to New England and hope that the weather will cooperate for a quick passage.

Speaking of making the best of things.  We enjoyed a nice visit to a resort yesterday, the Hope Town Inn and Marina.   For the price of a beer, or two, we were able to spend a few hours in the pool.  What a spot and only a short dink ride from Pandora.   Can you say “fresh water?”  It was great.  We may never leave here.Today we will rent a golf cart to tour the island with our friends Jeff and Susan from Meltemi.    We ran into them yesterday as they entered the harbor.  We had not seen them since we were in St Mary’s around Thanks Giving.  With all the islands in the Bahamas, it’s indeed a small world.

3 responses to “So, how about Pandora’s first season in the Bahamas?

  1. Great Post! A neat summary. Safe sailing on the way home and we hope to get together with you in Maine this summer.

  2. william woodroffe

    Great summary- Good read. Words and pictures naturally fell into place. Maureen

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