BAHAMA MAMA 12.25.2017
The crossing from Palm Beach to West End, Great Bahama Island was long but uneventful. We had been told that the winds, especially from the north, could cause very uncomfortable waves against the 2.5-3 knot current from the south. We were blessed with very light winds and the waves were less than 2 feet in the beginning and less than 1 foot later in the day. Unfortunately, we didn’t leave our Florida anchorage until 7:00 am because we wanted to wait for first light - and then we were a bit concerned about getting to the marina before dark. We ran the engine harder than we ever had before and she performed like a champ, getting us to the marina at about 5:00 pm.
On the way in, we heard (on the radio) and saw two sailboats that were disabled. One had a problem with its transmission cable and couldn’t switch from forward to either reverse or neutral, and one had a bad starter. The first one successfully glided into the marina and tied up by the gas dock and the second needed Hugh to come out with his dinghy and 20 horse power engine to pull them in. A very eventful ending – sad that so any sailors have some kind of trouble with their engine at some point during their travels.
At first glance the Old Bahama Bay Marina appeared to be very run down and my first reaction was not a great one. But later the next day, with a fresh set of eyes, I realized that it was a pretty cool place. There is evidence of damage from last year’s hurricane Mathew both at the resort and in the settlement (town) of West End. We rode our bicycles into the Settlement (town) of West End. Many things that were broken by Mathew are just left lying unattended where they landed. Homes and stores that were destroyed were just left as they were with the walls down, roofs missing and destroyed boats sitting randomly in the yards – dropped by the hurricane’s massive storm surge. It’s hard to believe that after more than a year, there is still so much to clean up and damage to repair – perhaps a reflection of the lack of monetary resources available in the island nation. No FEMA! Sometimes I don’t think we realize how fortunate we are in the good old US of A. One house had no roof and a telephone pole sticking out of the front window from inside (see picture). It appears that a lot of people are engaged in subsistence fishing – either in small boats or by just snorkeling out to a conch bed to collect conch with a floating cooler. In town, there are piles of empty conch shells along the beach and roadway where the “entrepreneurs” dump them after removing the mollusk. The smell was, at times, overpowering. There were very few stores or businesses. The one building that seems to have been fully restored very quickly after last year’s storm was the church. The Bahamians are described as a very religious people, and this was clearly evident.
The resort and Marina are very uneven in their condition and I think this is because the ownership of the property is divided up among multiple individuals – each of whom has differing levels of capital available for maintenance – and willingness to spend it. Word on the street is that the place is on the market. During our stay, a very large mega yacht (vicinity of 100’ long) docked on the wall at the marina. It is rumored that the owner may be a potential buyer. The buildings at the resort have new roofs and fresh paint and look to be in great shape– but much of the resort’s recreational equipment is very tired. The docks are rough and only partially painted. The marina shower house is pretty rough. The bicycles that marina and hotel guests can use (Bob and I had our own) are in very bad shape – although they are in better shape now since Hough oiled the chains and Bob added air to most of the tires. Kayaks and paddle boards are sitting out on the beach, shuffle board and large checkers and connect four are out for guests to use – again they look a little worse for wear.
The beach is beautiful with clean white sand and we snorkeled off it yesterday. I had not snorkeled since we were in the BVI and was a little tentative. But it was so much fun!! Not all that much to see but we did see a sting ray and some brightly colored fish, whose names I can’t remember. All-in-all a great experience.
Taking it easy on the beach at west end.
Kite flying on the beach
Karen organized a Christmas pot luck dinner for all the sailors docked at the marina. We gathered at the outdoor Tiki Bar near the pool and there were about seven or eight boats that participated. The food was plentiful and the company was great. I made potato pancakes since we had not all been together for Hannukah. Everyone shared their boating experiences.
Christmas dinner with: Captain Geri and her husband; Hugh, Sheila, Dan, Larry, Cindy, Steve, Annette, Bob, Bill and Michael.
This morning after three nights at Old Bahama Bay we set out for the Abacos. First stop is a 48 mile trip to Great Sale Cay (pronounced key). I was very apprehensive about this as it was a long way to go in one day, we couldn’t leave too early because of low tide AND the first 5 miles of the trip were through a very narrow and shallow cut with rocks and coral heads lurking just beneath the surface. Larry (one of the other sailors who participated in the pot luck) has done this trip many times and offered to lead the way through “Indian Rock Cut” and onto the Little Bahama Banks. We (Her Diamond, Trekker and Aquila) left in a group at 9:00 am. Here again we were a bit concerned about getting to the Great Sail anchorage before dark. Bob and I are increasingly convinced that we need to keep our daily runs to less than the 50 miles we did today whenever possible; first so we don’t have to push the engine so hard, and secondly to conserve diesel fuel – the engine burns around 50% more per hour at high RPMs than it does at typical cruising speed. We also want to do more sailing and less motoring when the winds are right. If you know you have to travel 50 miles in a day there is no time to turn the motor off and sail. The best you can do is motor sail – which is what we did today. I like to turn the engine off and have only the sound of the waves against the hull and the wind in the sails. Finally, taking shorter runs removes the stress and worry about not arriving at the anchorage or marina before dark. Much of the Bahamian waters are quite shallow and we are told you need to navigate by looking at the color of the water to determine depth and location of underwater dangers – principally rocks and coral. Not exactly sure how we are going to do that! We saw lots of star fish on the bottom along the way – that is how clear and shallow the water was.
Walking on shore at Great Sale
Three boats at anchor at Great Sale
Aquila in the sunset.
We are now anchored at Great Sale Cay and plan on spending tomorrow here. We will put the kayak down and explore the shore and hope to see lots of sea life!