After Colleen left, we had no particular agenda or schedule. We opted to leave Staniel Cay for Black Point Settlement to do laundry (Ida’s Rockside Laundry) and catch our breath. While finishing up the laundry a local fisherman pulled up to the dock outside Ida’s selling his catch of lobsters. We bought a large tail and grilled it for dinner that night. Yummy!
Lorraine’s Café even hosted a St. Patrick’s Day celebration for the cruisers in the harbor, with a buffet of traditional Bahamian foods and lots of green decorations. It was a great night to meet fellow cruisers and celebrate a traditional Irish celebration. Each of the ladies received a string of green beads and a green candle to mark the occasion.
While we were anchored at Black Point Settlement we were visited by the Bahamas Defense Force for a routine boarding and inspection. Rumor had it that another American was arrested the day before in the harbor for having unregistered guns on board. When you enter the Bahamas you must declare any weapons and ammunition you have on board. You are allowed to keep them as long as you do not remove them from the boat and you can account for all ammunition. We believe the Defense Force conducted a more thorough inspection than is typical because of the recent arrest, but the boarding party was polite and pleasant.
Our dinghy was very low on gasoline and we were awaiting word that Staniel Cay had received a shipment. Rumors spread among the cruisers at Black Point about when the ship would arrive and finally we heard on the VHF radio that the fuel ship had restocked Staniel Cay Yacht Club! We made our way back to Staniel Cay, topped off the dinghy fuel tank and had lunch in the Yacht Club.
After lunch we pulled up anchor and made our way around to other side of Fowl Cay. It felt like we had traveled a great distance (instead of just a few nautical miles) because the area was so quiet and peaceful. There were only two other boats anchored there. I was amazed at how dramatically nature has shaped the rocks between Fowl Cay and the Exuma Sound.
The next day we decided to head back North through the Exumas to visit the spots we had skipped on our way South. First stop was Pipe Cay which was home to a U.S. Navy DECCA station that is now abandoned.
Pipe Cay also has many sandbars which are dry at low tide. With the dinghy we circled the cay and had a picnic lunch on one of the sandbars. Later in the day, that area will be underwater at high tide.
We were able to get a mooring ball the next day off Cambridge Cay. We took the dinghy in to explore the island and hike to the trails. It was obvious the water was shallow so we decided to drop the anchor a good bit off shore and wade in to the beach. After a hot but interesting hike around the island we returned to the beach to find our dinghy was high and dry with no more than a couple of inches of water anywhere near it. This seems to be a pattern for us! This conch was also caught in the low tide, so we carried it out into deeper water.
Thinking it was already low tide we waited for the water to rise, but it hadn’t even reached low tide yet. A considerate cruiser from a nearby boat brought his dinghy close and offered to take us to our boat and bring us back later when the tide came up. Thank goodness he did because it was still about two hours before the tide rose enough to float the dinghy!
There was also some great snorkeling in the area. Because it is part of the national park system, there were moorings for the dinghies so you didn’t have to drop an anchor and potentially damage some of the coral beds. We saw a wide assortment of fish (including a barracuda swimming nearby), coral and fans – more than at any other place we’ve snorkeled.
We returned to Warderick Wells and hiked through some different trails than on our last visit. These pictures show a long wall that had been built many decades ago. Also we found salt pockets near an oceanside beach.
Next stop was Hawksbill Cay, still in the Exuma Land & Sea Park. That night we saw what looked like a thunderstorm forming in the distance, complete with a water spout! We watched it carefully, realizing that we would be very vulnerable had it moved in our direction. Lucky for us it moved away.
We decided to stop again at Highborne Cay on our way. Pete says the cheeseburger at Xuma is the best he’s had in the Bahamas and wanted one more before we moved on. The cheeseburger is layered with a large beef patty, sautéed onions and mushrooms, bacon, cheese and fried onion straws. The food and the view did not disappoint.
We now find ourselves back in Nassau staying at the Palm Cay Marina. It’s a very nice facility with a beach, swimming pool and restaurant. This is the first opportunity we’ve had to wash down the boat in a couple of months. We spent the afternoon scrubbing all the salt and grime from the decks then rewarded ourselves with a swim in the pool, followed by all you can eat pizza in the restaurant. We were both looking forward to a good night’s rest only to be awakened several times with high winds, thunder and lightning – a cold front moving through.
On Saturday we rented a car from the marina and went into Nassau to get laundry done and do some shopping. For $13 I had two loads of laundry washed, dried and folded. I felt like a kid in a candy store when we went into a fully stocked, American style grocery store! I had to refrain from buying too much, knowing we plan to be back in Florida within a week.
We stopped for lunch at the Graycliff Hotel in the older section of town. Pete bought some handrolled cigars and I found a real candy store (chocolatier) and bought some truffles. The Graycliff was originally built in the 1700s and has changed hands several times over the centuries, sometimes as a private home and other times as an inn or hotel. The architecture and gardens are quite beautiful, and a stark contrast to the fast paced city outside of its walls.
Also, the drive around the island, including some wrong turns, took us through neighborhoods of abject poverty, touristry areas, wealthy homes and middle class neighborhoods. Nassau (and the island of New Providence) is in contrast with the rest of the Bahamas that we have seen. Nassau is a big city with all of the advantages and disadvantages of a big city. The “out islands” are a collection of small settlements where the residents are fairly self-sufficient. They may not be what we consider as wealthy, but they have homes to live in and sufficient food to eat. We have gotten the sense that residents of the settlements take care of each other.
As I write this we are planning to work our way to Florida over the next several days with the plan to cruise around the keys and the Dry Tortugas. We had planned to fuel up this evening and leave first thing in the morning. When we tried to start the engines, the port engine made awful noises and wouldn’t start. Turns out a starter that Pete had replaced earlier in the trip has failed, with parts of it sheared off. At this point Pete is not sure if there may be starter pieces in the engine which could cause much more serious issues. We’ll do some more research in the morning before deciding whether or not to leave.
We are going to try to work our way to Chub Cay and then Bimini before crossing the Gulf Stream to Fort Lauderdale. We will leave the Bahamas with mixed feelings. We will miss the beauty of the islands and the warmth of the people. We look forward to returning the “land of plenty.”