January 11, 2007 - Bimini, Bahamas
Up towards the north end of the island, it's another story. Past a huge stone gate and massive fountain, hundreds of new condos in bright pastels line the island. A massive new channel has been cut up to a large marina. It's a very impressive development but it seems out of place here. Why come to the Bahamas if it's just going to look like Florida dressed up in brighter colors?
It's nice to be here at the dock while the wind blows 25 knots. There is plenty of room to anchor just to the north near the Big Game Club, but I suspect the comfort factor is low in the wind-driven chop. Near the new condos there is another more protected spot, although a large beached sailboat called the Whoa Na Na No does little to assure me about the holding there (see title photo at my latest essay). [Note: I later talked to the nice folks on the catamaran Lioness anchored near the new condos and they said the holding was fine, no worries. The drawback to the anchorage is that it's a long dinghy ride to town.]
Title Photo: Laura blows the traditional conch horn on Bimini's fine beach.
January 12, 2007 - Bimini, Bahamas
It was murder, all right.All mystery/suspense books open with a murder...yet I was hoping for a lighter tone. Easy enough with a musical or even a movie, I know, but a bit of a challenge for the novelist. Perhaps my co-writer, Annie, will come up with something now that I've given her this start. Our other co-writer, Janet from Promise, no doubt wants us to focus on more of a "Cliff Notes for Cruisers" approach.
Today we took a walk on the beach. Later, Harvey gave me a tour of Pryde, a very nice Lacoste 42. At 5:00 PM we all gathered at the beach to watch the sunset, which was obscured by clouds, but no one seemed to mind too much.
Photo: With something like 18 boats waiting here in Bimini for less windy weather, nightly gatherings to watch the sunset have become popular.
January 14, 2007 - Bimini, Bahamas
Photo: Folks gathered yesterday afternoon to talk about weather and strategy for crossing the banks. Almost everyone is heading for the Exumas via Nassau.
January 15, 2007 - Northwest Light, Bahamas
During the long motor trip to windward today, I lost my last "Triple-D" lure, no doubt to a big barracuda. I trolled all day and caught lots of weeds, but no fish for our dinner tonight. The fishing ought to be better tomorrow out along the edge of the deep water. We're anchored only about two miles from the spot where we spent the night with Promise and Misty Blue last year (although as I recall Misty Blue actually didn't stay put--Doug was about a half mile distant in the morning.) We've heard tales of a boat that dragged eight miles here during the night, but we seem to be well set. Besides, with nothing but water around for miles in every direction, it's not a bad spot to drag if that's your fate. We're here with Merlin, Pryde, and two catamarans, Dues Paid and Hairball, all of whom beat us here by a wide margin. It was almost 8:00 PM, well after dark, when we anchored. It's a bit rolly with ten knots of wind creating swell while the boat sits sideways in the tidal current. Chris was right, as usual.
January 16, 2007 - West Bay on New Providence Island, Bahamas
With Hairball located safe, sound, and soon zooming out of sight with Dues Paid, the monohulls found themselves pounding into 3-4 foot seas and a 15 knot headwind in the famous Tongue of the Ocean. I'm not sure why we waited until daylight to pass the reef at Northwest Channel because the sun rising ahead of us made it impossible to read the water, just like last year. Perhaps the story we heard of a sailboat colliding with a freighter here during the night is one reason. In any case, after waiting for daylight it soon became obvious that given our painfully slow progress against the wind and waves we wouldn't make it past Nassau to Rose Island before dark. While Merlin and Pryde headed for the docks at Coral Harbor (Nick and Carolyn Wardle can handle about six boats at a dock in their canal for about $25/night), we eventually caught up to the catamarans at West Bay, about ten miles short of Nassau.
By now just about everyone has heard the rumors, so I'm sure the world is waiting to hear about the fish we caught. While trolling through the famous Tongue of the Ocean off Chub Cay today, we landed a nice 37 inch Dorado. As we lurched through the waves, I tried to remember how Sue from Warrior had made filets of all those Dorado last year at Cat Island. I was excited that my lures had finally found their mark, and yet a little sad. Dorado are such beautiful fish that it's a shame to kill them, but if you are going to eat fish as we do, it's only fair that you catch and clean them yourself once in a while. Given our lack of fishing skill, that may be once in a long while.
January 18, 2007 - Allen's Cay, Bahamas
We had departed from West Bay on New Providence Island as soon as the light would allow passage through the reef, and headed due south to get around Southwest Reef, then onward across the White Banks to Highborne Cay. Going that far south probably added ten miles to our day but we stayed in twenty feet of water and never once saw a coral head. We anchored with a dozen other boats in the lee of Highborne, which was handy since the wind got up past 18 knots during the night. In the morning we went into Highborne Cay Marina, a very beautiful, well-kept place. Twenty-six gallons of diesel (which is what it took us to get here from Ft. Lauderdale) at $3.54/gallon set us back almost a hundred bucks. But the marina has a very nice little store and it was easier to go there than deal with the hassles of Nassau.
We left Highborne and motorsailed a few miles north to Allen's Cay, which we had missed on our trip last year. Allen's is famous for the rock iguanas that come running out onto the beach whenever a potential source of handouts appears. Reading tales of people getting bitten in the ankle, I had worried they might be aggressive, but generally they keep their distance unless you are holding out something they think is edible. We watched one fellow cruiser get a nasty bite on his finger, but such incidents are easily avoided--don't feed the lizards, and they won't feed on you.
Photo: (1) The beach was filled with giant lizards! (2) Proud and noble creatures they are. I named this one Jasper. (3) Walking the beach can be a challenge on these little cays. (4) Allen's Cay is a wonderful place. We snorkeled from a small beach just a hundred yards from where we are anchored and saw many fish and small coral.
January 19, 2007 - Allen's Cay, Bahamas
Photo: A view of Allen's anchorage from the second spreaders up on the mast. I've heard that up to 30 boats have anchored here at once. The protection is good although there is a fair amount of current.
January 20, 2007 - Hawksbill Cay, Bahamas
Photo: (1) Laura rescued three small fish that were stranded in a tidal pool just outside this cave. Seaductress is visible anchored a quarter mile off in the background. (2) Laura and Annie built a sand castle on this tiny beach in front of another cave just north of our anchorage.
January 21, 2007 - Warderick Wells, Bahamas
In our first day here the big event was a group hike up Boo Boo Hill, where we found, alas, that our sign from last year had been cleaned up along with several hundred others. The top of the hill had become a huge pile of debris hauled up there by cruisers, and every so often other cruiser volunteers are recruited to haul it all away and burn it. Later, I flew my kite from one of the sandbars that appear at low tide just a few feet behind the boat. One of the nice perks here is wireless Internet access ($10/day, I think) which allowed me to catch up on the nicely done log of Spoony, whose last reported position is Hope Town in the Abacos. The Globalstar sat phone has been working so poorly (I will be writing more about this soon, I'm sure) that updating this log and checking e-mail have been difficult. It's nice that paradise, these days, comes with wi-fi.
Photo: (1) When I arrived at the Blowhole near Boo Boo Hill, what looked like a dance party was already in progress. (2) We're back, baby, and riding the water trike. (3) Mangrove flats near Careening Beach, where the kids later conducted a massive, hour-long sand fight.
January 23, 2007 - Warderick Wells, Bahamas
You can pay for your mooring with volunteer work, but that's hardly a reason to do it. For one thing, moorings are pretty cheap. But it's kind of neat (if somewhat tiring) to be doing something useful for a change, rather than just lazing about all the time. Thanks to volunteers, I understand that the park is basically self-supporting. The only thing that I find strange is that there are no Bahamians here--this has been and still is largely a park that preserves the natural area and sea life for all, yet is enjoyed on a daily basis only by cruisers.
Photo: (1) My coworker and master carpenter John from Jennie Marie surveys the famous Boo Boo Hill. Last year this area was completely filled with signs left by cruisers, but it's relatively clean now, awaiting new signs. (2) At high tide, the most popular trail to Boo Boo Hill gets almost knee-deep in water. (3) Fortunately, Laura likes water.