We spent the first two weeks of February provisioning for our 2-3 month cruise to the Bahamas, completing maintenance items and installing our new cooktop and dryer. Kathleen completed a long (since October) dental work saga (at least its over). Dave and Elaine arrived on the 9th, and we started our weather watch looking for a good window to cross over from Florida to the Bahamas. And we waited. And waited. We had a lovely Valentine’s Day together, as well as venturing out for sushi one night, to the Mel Fisher treasure museum for an excursion, and our requisite visit to Squid Lips – a local restaurant that is heavy on fried food and excellent views of the Indian River. Finally, the stars seemed to align for a reasonable crossing, and with negative Covid tests in hand, Bahamian Health Travel Visas, and a pending cruising permit, we departed Loggerhead Marina Vero Beach on February 18th at 7:45 am.
The trip started fine, with 3-4 foot waves at the Ft. Pierce Inlet where we entered the Atlantic about 10:00 am. We had nice cruise down the coast, the guys trying their hands (alas unsuccessfully) at fishing for tuna and mahi mahi, and watching the sunset 3 miles off shore. We began angling east as we neared Palm Beach, planning to cross the Gulf Stream overnight, cruising to Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands for our first stop and check in with Customs. Sometime in the small hours of the night, Kathleen was on watch when the alarm for the stabilizer hydraulic oil temperature started, well, alarming. After a too-soon awakening, Neil determined that a cooling pump was failing and we had to shut down the stabilizers – in the middle of crossing the Gulf Stream in 3-4 foot seas. Suffice it to say that Dave and Elaine had a rather abrupt induction into “sea life” and we were all very glad that we had our Scopolamine patches on. With all the rolling, our navigation chart computer shut off at one point, but luckily, rebooted without too rapid of heart beat for Kathleen (not to worry though as we had our backup navigation chart program running on the iPad – redundancies…).
Once through the Gulf Stream, the seas calmed a lot, and we had a magnificent sunrise to reward us for our harrowing night. We carefully navigated into Great Harbour Cay Marina around noon, getting secured to a dock with helpful hands from the marina crew. Kathleen went to check in with Customs, and was informed that some information she had uploaded in Florida had not been saved – not a big deal, but it was a bit of a hassle. Although it probably only took about another hour, we were FINALLY all checked in, the yellow quarantine flag came down and we could all get off the boat to explore a bit.
We wanted to go to our favorite place, Brown’s Garden, for dinner, and grabbed a cab. Once there, however, we discovered that the restaurant was closed from Friday night through Saturday night (seems an odd schedule for a restaurant, but whatever). Our very obliging cab driver took us to two more restaurants until we found one that was open (who knew that Saturday night was not a popular night to go out?). We had a nice meal, with Dave sampling two variations of fried conch (fritters and cracked) and Neil, Dave and Elaine toasting our arrival in the Bahamas with a Kalik, the locally brewed beer. Our cab driver was conveniently at the bar with his friends also enjoying a couple of Kalik’s while we ate, and was there to take us back to the marina when we were done. Yes, we all collapsed into deserved sleep that night.
Kathleen and Elaine used our bikes to explore the island the next day, discovering beautiful sights and beaches. They did visit the Beach Club (another favorite from our previous visit), but it was closed on Sunday morning (to be fair, it did seem that most people were at church when they were out riding). Neil was busy trying to fix the stabilizer oil cooling pump. It took a couple of days, but he got the original pump fixed.
Over the next two days, Neil and Kathleen ventured out on a bike ride to the beach while Dave and Elaine explored the area on foot. Kathleen discovered that she really CAN fit into a lower storage area in the kitchen (good to know if she ever has to find a good hiding place on the boat), and also did some baking, taking advantage of the shore power while in the marina. The days were easy as we waited for weather to clear and we all agreed that there are worse places to wait out the wind.
On the morning of Feb 22nd, we exited the marina and cruised for a couple of hours to confirm the stabilizer system fix, use the watermaker, and check other systems. We then anchored off of the Government Docks just outside Great Harbour, intent on beginning our journey south to the Exumas the next day.
We raised anchor about 7:00 the next morning for a nine hour run to West Bay, New Providence Island. It was a bouncy ride, with 2-4 foot waves. Dave and Elaine were beginning to doubt the stories that Kathleen and Neil had told about smooth Bahamian cruising from the previous Summer. Even with the stabilizers working there was still some rolling on the boat. Again, Scopolamine to the rescue. It is definitely different here weather-wise this time of year, but the temperature is wonderful and the water very inviting.
It’s hard to describe the beauty of the water here- it’s unique, crystal-clear torquoise blue is unlike anywhere else. The water is a tempting 80 degrees and the air temperature about the same. We have to keep remembering that it is still winter and keep thanking our lucky stars that we get to have this adventure.
West Bay was just an overnight stop, so we were raising anchor again the next morning around 7:30. The seas were very bouncy, with 4-5 foot waves once we entered the Great Bahama Bank which is quite shallow. We turned into the anchorage at Norman’s Cay about 3pm, carefully working our way around inattentive captains and coral reef heads to get anchored by 4. The beautiful vista did not disappoint – white sand beaches, crystal teal waters, and gentle, sun-kissed breezes. We all went for a swim, Kathleen diving the anchor to ensure it was set, and all of us playing in the water for a bit. Dinner was a bit later than anticipated due to Kathleen not noticing the BBQ had gone out (oops), but we had a nice celebratory first night in the Exumas, and an early bedtime as we were all pretty tired from the last week’s travels.
On the 25th, after breakfast and morning chores, we lowered the dinghy and cruised over to the beach. We toured the waters for about 30 minutes, then anchored just off the beach, setting up our towels and gear. We walked for a little over an hour, discovering MacDuff’s restaurant located right on the beach (which alas was not yet open), and just enjoying the sun and sand. We did some snorkeling and relaxing which seemed to be the perfect way to spend the day. We plan to be here until Monday, so we will have time to find some reefs to snorkel, and the sunken drug-running plane on the other side of the island that is apparently quite the tourist attraction and something Neil and Kathleen were sorry they had missed on their previous Bahamas visit.