January 11, 2007 - Bimini, Bahamas
The winds are still howling across the Bahamas, so most everyone is staying put where they are. Alice Town here on Bimini is a sleepy little village this time of year. Hemingway's old hangout, the Compleat Angler, which was right across the street from us, burned last year and is now just ruins (the owner, Julian Brown, died trying to fight the fire). I had been expecting to see seaplanes landing and taking off, but Chalks no longer flies here following a crash off Miami in December 2005 that killed eleven from the island. That's a shame, because traffic to and from Bimini was the foundation of the airline. The End of the World Bar is still there down the street, but seeing few customers. Except for the wind, it is peaceful here, almost ghostly.

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
We spent most of yesterday on the boat as the northeast winds continued to howl. I worked on our Great American Mystery/Suspense/Cruising Novel, The Crossing. Progress was slow, but we did achieve the crucial first sentence:

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.

Sunset Happy Hour

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
Yep, still here in Bimini. I used to fear cold fronts, but now I'm learning that the lack of cold fronts can be just as bad, because without them there is little to change the pressure gradient that has been causing windy conditions over the past week. The plan (developed at a top-secret strategy meeting yesterday afternoon) is to talk to Chris Parker tomorrow morning and leave if the forecast for lighter winds is holding. We will go south to Triangle Rocks, enter the banks and spend the night somewhere near Northwest Light...then head for Rose Island near Nassau on Tuesday.

Strategy Meeting

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
After listening to Chris Parker (who actually advised going tomorrow instead of today) we left Bimini around 7:15 AM in the company of a dozen other boats all heading towards Nassau. We motored about three miles south and entered the banks at Triangle Rock, which was a very wide (as in 1/2 mile) and very gradual slope up into the shallow water of the banks. Several other boats took the slightly shorter route past the wreck of the Sapola with no problems, so apparently that is a viable idea as well. Having now seen both, I think I very much prefer Triangle Rocks to the Gun Cay cut we ran last year. In a strong west or southwest wind, when Gun Cay and the Bimini harbor entrance would be nasty with breaking waves, I suspect one could enter the banks at Triangle Rocks without any real drama, then anchor over by Cat for the night.

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
Everyone was awake before the sun came up (some claimed they had not yet been to sleep due to the rock and roll show the banks were putting on for us) and scanning the horizon for the missing Hairball. Once again the area's reputation held true as the wayward catamaran had dragged about a mile over the banks during the night. The crew of Seaductress slept pretty well considering the way we were bouncing, especially when the winds unexpectedly kicked up for a while almost to 20 knots. Despite our being a mile south of the normal route across the banks in the absolute middle of nowhere, around 4:00 AM some kind of Bahamian boat passed within fifty feet of us. You just never know!

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. El Dorado 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 lost two members of the crew yesterday. First, Laura's Squidward toy fell overboard (an anonymous crew member got so excited about seeing a dolphin that he--oops, I mean he or she--let Squidward slip right out of his hand). Then, as we circled the boat back to search for the missing Spongebob sidekick, this same incompetent apparently ran over one of his trolling lines and lost the squid lure that had landed the big fish just a couple of days before.

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.

Iguanas on the Beach Cyclura Cyclura Inornata Allen's Beach Ready to Snorkel

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
We thought we might go down to Shroud or Hawksbill today but decided it was easier to stay put. This worked out well as we had an opportunity to do some swimming off the boat, work on the cruising novel, adjust the rigging on the mast, explore the ruins (which turned out to be contemporary, not anything noteworthy), and meet the folks on Moonsail and Milano Myst, who had come over from Spanish Wells. Laura had a good time playing with Danny and Dayla from Milano Myst, and everyone gathered at "Snorkel Beach" for an enjoyable cocktail hour. Later Annie cooked the last of that delicious Dorado. I know it all sounds very relaxing and spontaneous, but paradise doesn't come easily--these islands are a pressure cooker of relaxation! There is so much not to do that it's impossible not to do all of it at once.

Allens' Anchorage

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
We were feeling very smart today after making the decision to split from the crowds (who were mostly headed for Normans) to anchor here at Hawksbill. We had a large island, one of the most beautiful in the Exumas, all to ourselves. We are anchored about midway up the west side of the island off the banks, protected from the brisk northeast winds predicted for tonight. A half mile north is a small beach with a trail that leads to the ruins of the Russell plantation, which goes back to 1785. Probably the neatest thing we saw was a frog or toad hiding inside the cocoon of an air plant of some type midway up a shrub. A branch trail led us over to the wonderful beaches on the east side of the island where we had a great time playing in the surf. Then it was back to the anchorage area for our fourth and final deserted beach of the day.

Hawksbill Cay Cave Private Hawksville Cay Beach

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
Laura had a great time today playing with the kids from Milano Myst and Amelionne here at Warderick Wells. After a fun day yesterday at Hawksbill, we left our lonely anchorage at 7:30 this morning to sail towards the Exuma Land and Sea Park, wanting to be even deeper within radio range when the mooring assignments were given. We got a slot in the coveted north mooring field with no problems (being a member of the Bahamas National Trust "support fleet" does have its privileges). We will stay here for a few days, at least until the cold front that is forecast for Thursday is past.

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.

At the Blowhole Water Trike Mangrove Flats

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
We have settled into a new routine here at Exuma Park. I've been doing volunteer work for the park with a fellow named John from Jennie Marie, mostly helping him with carpentry but we also did some trail maintenance. Our biggest project has been building a platform off one of the docks to make it easier for folks to get on and off their boats. Annie and Laura have been doing their school work in the mornings and then building sand castles all afternoon. At low tide, they can swim off the back of the boat about fifteen feet and then come ashore on a sand bar.

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.

Boo Boo Hill Flooded trail Laura frolics

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.

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Copyright © 2007 by Rodger Ling. All rights reserved.