Redwings Round the World

The Bahamas: Far Out Islands

11 - 16 April 2001

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11 April - Abraham's Bay, Mayaguana

Aaron - Colleen awoke me at 0800 for my watch and just in time to see the low profile of Mayaguana emerging out of the early morning light off the starboard bow.  We made great time through the night charging along at 7-8 knots under 2X reefed main and 20% furled genoa in 18-22 knot trade winds on the beam.

At about 0830, we approached the entrance to the bay which lies behind a crashing reef extending for five miles along the south western coast of the island, dropped the main, and picked our way through the 200 m entrance slowly motoring towards two other boats anchored behind the reef.  It looked as though the boats were just anchored in the middle of the sea as the best spot it about two miles off the beach behind the reef.  Huge breakers smashed just 100 m beyond them.

The anchorages in the Bahamas are very shallow (usually 8-12 feet) with coral heads (bombies) scattered throughout so one has to keep a good lookout whenever moving around.  We have not had to employ these "reef tactics" since the Maldives. 

By 0930 we too were tucked in behind the reef and riding at anchor.  Its about five miles up the shallow bay to the settlement and would have been a treacherous dingy ride to get there so, when the other two boats in the anchorage told us they were heading up there on the high tide, we jumped at the chance to follow them.  Let them chart the way through the bombies.

1 1/2 hours later, we made it to the anchorage off the settlement.  In  fact, we had 10-12 feel under the keel the whole way which is more than the chart indicated.  Its still breezy and choppy up here, but a better location to get to "town" from.

A local fisherman "Smokey" provides a launch service for yachts in the anchorage for US$5 per boat round trip, so rather than put the dingy in and get all wet in transit, we opted for this.  Smokey gave us the poop on the settlement: 240 people on the whole island in three settlements, boat comes three times per month from Nassau with food etc., people pretty much subsist off fishing and a bit of farming.  Not much here.  Flat, sandy, lots of cinder block houses.  Smokey is a conch diver and he gets about 500 to 1,000 per day (he claims) which he sells for $1 a piece.

Check-in was the slowest ever - took two hours for three boats.  But real nice folks here.  Nothing to rush of to do anyway.  We had a drink at "the bar" which seemed more like somebody's rec room, and headed back to the boat to do a bit of cleaning up and for our post-passage naps.

12 April - On Passage: Mayaguana to Conception Island

Aaron - Windy this morning, but its in the right direction (20-25 from SE).  We can smell the sewerage from the settlement.  It's a long wet dingy ride to shore.  What's here?  Lets go.  There are no fantastic stops nearby with good anchorages so we have decided to make the run all the way to Conception Island 150 miles up.  Venla stopped there and e-mailed us that it was one of their favorite spots ever.

The other boats heading our way are going to wait another day for the swell and wind to die, but we'd prefer to be sailing off the wind in this than sitting at anchor listening to the halyards vibrate.  This way we will make good speed all the way under sail and we'll then be in Conception when the wind dies (forecast for tomorrow) sitting placidly at anchor and comfortably dinging ashore and snorkeling on the reefs.

I think we are also just predisposed to keep moving at this point as our passages have been so pleasant lately and its feels good to make progress North.  We have passed a few major milestones lately: west of New England (about 74 West - we are now at 75 West), and North of 22 North - where we stared in Hong Kong.  Since leaving Hong Kong, we have put in about 15,000 miles.  We have about 1,500 to go to Maine.  Mile by mile, we are getting there, and enjoying ourselves almost every step of the way.  Florida looms on the upper left hand corner of our current passage chart.  It's only a few hundred miles away....  Our recent cruising has been  as advertised in Cruising World: fast comfortable passages, interesting and beautiful anchorages, no boat problems.  It seems weird not to have anything that needs doing on the boat apart from scraping a few barnacles off the bottom!

We waited till 1/2 hour before high tide and left the anchorage at 1200 again picking our way through the reefs in Abraham's bay towards the Western entrance five miles away.  No problem.  Always had at least 10 feet of depth.  Off and beam reaching towards Plana Cays by 1330 at eight knots, banged a left as we rounded them, eased to a broad reach, and plugged in the waypoint for Conception 125 miles away.  Sailed right by a huge whale.  Others spouting all around.  Beautiful moonlit night, sailing under genoa alone making 6-7 knots in 15-20 knots of breeze.

The male cat (still can't decide on names) is getting bold and kept coming out into the cockpit and trying to explore the decks for fish - he found a little one.  I really have to follow him around though as I am not sure if he really grasps the danger of falling in yet or what the water is.  Eventually, I closed them down below as the stress was too much of trying to watch them all the time and grab them ever time they put their paws up on the toe rail.

13 April - Conception Island

Colleen - The wind eased of in the early morning hours of our sail with the last few miles to Conception Island.  We motored the last 2 hours.  Some believe this is the nicest island in the Bahamas, and some even claim the world (of course, that's a hard subjective claim to make).  It is truly lovely though.  Crystal clear light blue water, snow white beaches, lined with greenery.  The water is so clear, we can see every fish looking down from the boat perfectly.  We arrived and dropped anchor around 10 a.m., with only 3 or 4 other boats in the bay.  Aaron was taking a shower, when I noticed the female kitty had diarrhea.  In the new "rock" system kitty box she was having an awful time trying to hide it, and it was all over her, in her whiskers, on her paws, etc.. She was heading downstairs, so I grabbed her and passed her through the bathroom window to Aaron to clean off in the shower.  

This was her first shower, and she was traumatized.  We felt bad and gave her lots of TLC afterward.  It wasn't long before we all fell asleep for a very long afternoon nap catching up after the night sail. 

I awoke around 5 p.m.  I didn't feel like getting cold by jumping in the water but it just seemed so crazy to be in one of the loveliest places in the world to swim and not swim today.  So I donned my snorkel and mask and swam for shore, about 5-10 minute's swim away.  There was a family playing on the shore. As I emerged from the water, one of the kids yelled "shark".  The father looked through the water from atop a recent sailboat wreck on the beach and confirmed the shark sighting, telling the kids to get out of the water.  The water is so clear, you can easily see the shark's dark body slither through the light green water 100 meters away.  I was like "Oh great timing for my swim..."  The family offered to dinghy me back to my boat as they were leaving the beach anyway.   I was a little tense about sharks anyway as a guy in Mayaguana told me he was attacked by a shark on four separate occasions in the Bahamas while spear fishing.  The sharks are attracted to the killed fish after they have been speared.  Later I was told that it is generally considered a good idea not to swim in the morning before 9 a.m., or evening, after 4 p.m., as that is shark feeding time in the Bahamas.

Back at the boat we decided it was time to put the litter box outside permanently, which meant the cats needed to finally be exposed to the dangers of the water so they wouldn't cavalierly fall in while they were out there unattended in the evenings.  Aaron brought them into the dinghy and put them on the ropes hanging from the stern that were there permanently for them to climb up if they went overboard.  The female cat in a panic fell trying to jump from the dingy to the boat and splashed into the water.  In shock she swam away from it, until she swam to the swimming ladder.  Perched on the bottom rung, she cried to be rescued.  Aaron grabbed her, and tried her on the rope again, she made it up alone.  Aaron then gently dunked the boy kitty in and he swam to the other side of the boat right by both ropes.  Eventually Aaron grabbed him and put him on the ropes.

The cats were very upset after their experiences.  The poor female was pretty devastated to get a shower twice in one day.  Here they are cleaning up after the trauma (see photo).  So again, we gave them lots of TLC for the evening.

Before the sun went down, Joe Cool and Sambuca II sailed into the anchorage.  We spent a year moored next to Joe Cool in Barcelona, and we had met Sambuca II briefly in the Canaries.

14 April - Conception Island

Colleen - When we awoke the bay was perfectly peaceful and calm.  We decided to row ashore for some exploration.  We walked along the lovely beach, and found a path cutting over to another bay, which was even nicer yet. On a our way back, a sea plane landed in front of the beach to let a family off. The pilot was very friendly.  He said they were based in Nassau doing charters for US$1,200 per hour of flying time.  The family only stayed for about two hours then flew off again.  After lunch we took the dinghy up "Conch Creek" which is recommended for turtle spotting and conch collecting.  However, its only possible at exactly high tide as some spots go almost dry, even too shallow for a dinghy.  We arrived a bit too late after high tide to get too far.

We then went out snorkeling along the northern reef.  Very beautiful.

We took the dinghy about a mile or two north of the island looking for the recommend dive site in the reef.  The water was so clear it was spooky looking below.  We could see perfectly 30 feet down. We watched a 10 foot shark move below us through the water.

In the afternoon Aaron caught the Red Sox/Yankees game on the radio which made him happy.  Whenever we dropped the cat box over the side for cleaning, tiny fish were attracted to their feces. We caught the little fish and gave them to the cats to eat live.  They had fun!  After dinner we had four boats over for drinks, Sambuca II, Joe Cool, Sea Gypsy, and Odetta.

15 April - Conception Island

Colleen - Happy Easter!  The male cat awoke us by urinating on us in the bed.  I guess this is his way of rebelling against a litter box arrangement he's not the crazy about and the fact that the litter box needed to be cleaned since last night.  Sambuca II came by with Easter chocolates for all the boats in the anchorage.  We were planning a pot luck Easter dinner on Joe Cool.  

Aaron announced on the VHF that he was going diving if anyone in the anchorage wanted to join him.  A large boat we hadn't met, Oz, responded back yes.  They also asked if they could do the pot luck with us.  They offered to host it on their boat as it was larger than any others.  

Aaron took out the dreaded dive tank compressor to fill the diving tanks with air.  I arranged to be off snorkeling with others while this happened (its really loud and disturbing!)  The cats were probably horrified with the noise of the thing.  Aaron went diving around 2 p.m. on the reef with Chris from Oz.  The wind started to change direction, coming southwest directly into the anchorage and picking up.  This made us all a little tense and the wavelets built up.   But knowing the wind was not forecast to go above 15 knots, we decided it would be fine to stay in the anchorage.  

Keneschunich, a Nova Scotian boat we met at Myaguana (we followed them in across the bay) came in and we invited them to the join the pot luck.  At five we dinghied over to the beautiful boat, Oz.  What an Easter treat! Oz was recently purchased by Peter and Alice (Peter's adult son Chris went diving with Aaron) who are from Maine.  The boat is almost 90 feet long, and seemed like an absolute luxury palace coming from all our other boats.  The boat was purchased with everything on it, linens, china, crystal, posh silverware.  So we really enjoyed our Easter feast in style.

April 16 - Conception Island

Colleen - All of the boats left the anchorage in the morning except for us and Oz.  Most headed for Georgetown, many wanted to get out as winds were forecast to be coming from the West/Southwest, directly into the bay.  Aaron wanted to fill the dive tanks again, so I arranged to take Alice from Oz snorkeling.  I enjoyed the snorkel very much.  Afterwards Alice and I pulled the dinghy up onto the beach and walked across to the other bay.  We had a nice time talking as we walked.  When we returned to the dinghy on the beach we were a little alarmed to see the wind had picked up (15-20 knots) and waves were breaking on the beach.  We had an adventurous time getting the dinghy out again in the surf and a rough and wet ride motoring into the wind and waves as we went back to our boats.  

Aaron and I were getting ready to move the boat over to the East side of the Island, in the lee of the wind, but we overheard a VHF conversation between two boats over there.  They said they were also experiencing rough conditions on that side, as there is some southwest exposure there.  Figuring the wind would go no higher and calm down for the evening (night effect) as it did yesterday, we decided to stay and stick it out.  

We invited Oz over for dinner.  Aaron and I enjoyed a lovely evening with Peter and Alice.

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Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved by Aaron Henderson and Colleen Duggan