Out islands Bahamas, we’re really out there now…

As I sit here working on this post, I am in the offices of a BATELCO “store” here on Rum Cay.  To say that this is a remote outpost doesn’t begin to make the point.   We hitched a ride on a golf cart to get here as the marina we are visiting is over a mile from this spot.   We paid our $5 to use the service and are rushing to be done prior to the time running out.  Hopefully, a Bahamas half hour is longer than a New York half hour.  I expect that it is.   One good thing is that their offices, and there are spots on all the major islands, are well air conditioned, something that you see little of here in the islands.    Yes, it’s been a while since my last post but getting time on the Internet here is tough.

After several weeks in George Town Brenda and I were ready for a fix of “real” Bahamas life.  After leaving George Town we headed over to Calabash Bay, on the northern tip of Long Island.  The spot was very pretty with a great beach.   It was fun to actually sail again after weeks of sitting around and to do so over water that was a deep indigo blue with shallow reefs everywhere.   Piloting around all of this is a challenge.  Thank goodness for great charts. 

After Calabash Bay we headed out to Conception Island, a National Trust Park and as unspoiled as most any spot in the Bahamas.   The water was so clear that I believe the visibility was about 100′.  

This is our dink when viewed from a less common angle.  That’s clear.  As soon as we dropped anchor in nearly 20′ of water I looked over the side to see a school of fish swimming by followed by a ray and then a large puffer fish that was looking for a handout.  It was like Wild Kingdom.  What a spot.   Speaking of less common views.  How about this one of Pandora.  While it doesn’t show here, I could see the anchor chain and anchor from here.The crescent beach was nearly two miles long and was an unbroken snow white sort that you dream about.The snorkeling was great too and I was thrilled to swim with my first nurse shark, I guess about 4′ long.There are loads of fish on the reefs.  It’s great fun taking photos although they never look as good as the real thing.  The colors are more vivid than the photos show.The scenery was quite dramatic with great white cliffs around much of the island.

I scaled up onto one and had my picture taken by a friend.Brenda opted to stay on board that morning as it was pretty rough getting onto the beach from the dink.  With a moderate surf running onto the beach you had to time your arrival so that a wave swept you onto the beach and left the dink dry while you scramble out and move it higher before the next wave rolled in. Getting back out was a bit of a trick as you pushed out between waves with the hope of avoiding one filling the dink with water.

There was the remains of an old ship wreck and all that was in evidence was a massive anchor windlass and loads of iron fittings piled into great rusting heaps on the shore.I’d guess that it was a wooden steamer based on the shape of some of the iron and one that looked like a great drive shaft.   I can only imagine what it must have been like to be wrecked on this island.  The harbor is only protected from east winds.  Any other direction and it could be downright dangerous. 

When we arrived the weather was about perfect allowing us to sail from Long Island.  There were about 20 boats anchored in the bay and someone went from boat to boat and arranged a BYOB cocktail party on the beach.  It was fun to bring the dink onto the beach with nearly 20 others to meet and compare stories.   Two days later every boat left and we were nearly the last to leave as the forecast wasn’t a good one for such an exposed anchorage.  

One evening we were invited aboard a massive cat, nearly 80′ long for cocktails.  The owners were very gracious and told us all about Rum Cay, a place that I had wanted to visit for a while.  This is a really big boat.  Just one of the hulls could swallow up Pandora and one of her sister ships. Since we have arrived in the Bahamas we have been able to time our trips with the winds and avoid long motor passages.   With pretty nasty weather in the forecast for later this week we had to find a harbor with protection from north west winds, something that is not common in these waters where most harbors are wide open from that direction. 

We decided that our best option was Rum Cay, another remote outpost and although it was a nearly 20 mile motor into the wind it was our best option to ride out the coming strong winds.  There is only one harbor on the island of several hundred residents.   It is really remote and the grocery, such as it is, is  a one room shanty with a very limited supply of provisions.  When I visited they had zero fresh food and only a handful of canned goods.   The mail boat with provisions only visits once a week and that day had come and gone with all fresh food selling out in a single day. 

The only marina on the island was badly damaged hurricane by Sandy and has not officially reopened.  However, the docks are in good enough shape to use if you can wind your way through the coral heads and get into the channel.  If you make it that far you had better be there near high tide as the hurricane silted in the channel so that there is only enough water to get into the harbor at near high water.  When we arrived the place was packed and the only slip left didn’t have enough water for us to float at low tide.  We went in anyway and when it was low tide about 18′ of our bottom was showing above the water and we were standing on our keel which supported the entire boat.Yesterday a bunch of boat left and we moved to a better spot with adequate water to float us all the time.  That’s better. 

As the marina is not up to snuff you can stay there for free as long as you like and the local “owner” Bobby, will sell you water, ice or a place to take a shower.  He’s also an artist and carves sculptures out of coral and other natural items.There is also a kitchen from the old, now closed, restaurant that is available for cruisers to stage their own potluck meals.  It’s a pretty building with a great view.Someone that we met prior to coming here described this marina as a “jungle marina”, not far from true. There is no staff to speak of and any time you enter the marina the other cruisers help out with lines.  There is usually some wind at the entrance so it’s a bit tricky on the way in.  It’s good to have a few extra sets of helping hands at the ready.  And, along with the hands are plenty of docking “advice”.  Happily, the group is good natured as nearly everyone has a tough time at one point or the other with the docking. As this place is so off of the beaten path, a fishing charter is very good with a seemingly endless supply of lobster and fish to spear on the nearby reefs.   And with fish come sharks who show up each evening in the marina for handouts from the fish cleaning station. 

This is a small harbor and certainly not one where you would want to dip in your feet.  Not 50′ from Pandora this scene took place the other evening.There were 7 sharks including a number of nurse sharks and lemon sharks, some in the 8′ range looking for a handout. 

I was also told that bull sharks are common here.  While nurse sharks are harmless, the lemon and bull sharks bite plenty so you want to be sure to stay away from them. The cruisers who were feeding them made quite a sport out of it by tying a fish head to a rope and teasing the sharks.  It’s sobering to watch one of these lemon sharks take a swipe at the fish bait.   It happens so fast that your eye can’t even follow it when the strike occurs.One of the local kids enjoyed putting a piece of fish just out of reach of the nurse sharks in really shallow water so that they had to practically swim out of the water to reach it.Swimming anyone?  Note moi, that’s for sure.

Some of the guys go out spear fishing every day and always come in with something to show for their efforts.   This lobster looked really big to me but I am told that they find some that are even bigger on a regular basis.  I think that I’ll have to give that a try.How about this strawberry grouper?  One of the guys told me yesterday that he had been chasing a really big grouper, perhaps 20-30 lbs but couldn’t get close.  I wonder how you would even get a fish back to the boat before one of the reef sharks showed up to claim the prize.  Perhaps I don’t actually have the guts to try.  Probably not.There is an interesting mix of folks here from all walks of life.  A young couple arrived yesterday on a small 32’sailboat.  They are married and both crew on a salmon fishing boat in Prince William Sound in Alaska in the summer.  For the winter they are sailing the Bahamas   At 22 and 26 they are really youngsters.  The women, more of a girl actually, Tonya, the younger one, is very petite and it’s hard for me to imagine her working on a fishing boat.  It seems that she grew up aboard their parent’s boat while they sailed around the world.  She “joined” the crew in Cypress when she was two months old and was aboard as they completed the rest of their journey. 

Tonia is going to visit her family in Norway prior to heading back to Alaska and a summer of fishing.  I can’t even imagine how that sort of experience would shape your life and to have all of that experience by the time you are in your early 20s.

We are expecting some nasty windy weather over the weekend and the wind is supposed to run up to 30 knots for several days. Here in this little harbor we should be well protected.  After that and a return of favorable winds we will decide where to go next.   For now, we are enjoying the local color.   We expect to rent a gas powered golf cart today or tomorrow and go for a tour of the island.

Tonight we hope that there will be a cruiser pot luck. I understand that it’s the owner,Bobby’s birthday and perhaps a cookout is in our future.  Perhaps we will have an opportunity to sample some of that lobster that has been arriving daily at the docks.

I don’t think that there is much point in putting up yet another beautiful sunset shot.  However, a moment after the sun set we saw the elusive “green flash”, a fleeting green light that peaks over the horizon just as the sun drops below the horizon.   Pretty amazing to see and harder to photograph, I would think. 

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