We spent five nights at the Exuma Land and Sea Park, which was more than we originally planned. This was partly due to windy conditions and partly because it was just so incredibly beautiful and peaceful there.
The Park provides a map with trails indicated and we hiked multiple times on the limestone routes. You have to watch where you put each step as there are holes and spikes in the stone path all along the way. We hiked to the Davis Ruins, but the Park personnel could not tell us exactly who Davis was. We believe they were loyalists who settled on the island in the 1700s and tried to make a go of agriculture. They didn’t succeed because of the harsh conditions and the poor or non-existent soil. We hiked along an old stone wall to the Exuma Sound side of the Island to a beautiful place called Slave Dip, where impressive waves crash along the rocky shore. There are blow holes at various places where, in the right conditions, water will spray up and you can hear the roar as the waves crash into the shoreline.
Cistern at Davis Ruins
Slave Dip on Sound side of Wardrick Wells.
Saturday evening all of the cruisers at the Wardrick Wells gathered for sundowners – a park tradition. Everyone brings their own drinks and something to share. Park staff also attended. Cherry, the women who assigns mooring balls each morning at 9:00 am on VHF channel 9, and the new Park warden, only three days on the job, joined us. It is a nice way to meet people, share stories and get tips about where you are going. Many tried to blow the conch as the sun set.
We did find one spot to snorkel that was not impacted by the current. There is a small reef by the Emerald Rock mooring field on the Bahama Bank side of the Island. We snorkeled there and found an abundance of fish. We brought our plastic fish identifying cards so we could name the fish we were seeing. It was AMAZING.
Sheila near the blow holes - Wardrick Wells.
Snail shells in the rocks.
We had agreed with Trekker that our next destination (Monday)would be Cambridge Cay. However, while further discussing our plans, Bob and I agreed that heading further south did not make sense for us. The wind was out of the southeast which meant it would be a rough sail to Cambridge. Cambridge had no amenities and we needed groceries and water. Rather than delay the inevitable, we informed Trekker that we were going to start heading back north in preparation for our return to Florida. Having traveled together since August 6, it was sad to separate, but felt like we were starting the second phase of the trip (without the rest of our sailing family).We said goodbye and headed for Shroud Cay, a short 20 miles north, where we anchored for the night.
Early the next morning, right after leaving the Shroud anchorage, a squall formed behind us. We were sailing along at hull speed with main sail only, and decided to turn on the engine just in case we had to quickly drop the sail. We kept an eye on the squall as the winds increased to gusts of 29 knots. After about 10-15 minutes the squall rained itself out and dissipated, the winds died down and we turned the motor off and continued on our way. We had been through this type of popup squall before so we weren’t terrible concerned – experience is a great teacher.
Our path took us on a dogleg between the Yellow and White banks. Yellow Bank is full of coral reefs and White Bank has some very shallow areas. This is the route the Waterway Guide recommended.
I like to think of our stay at Palm Cay as a play in four Acts.
The pool at Palm Cay Resort and Marina. This is right on the beach.
Received yellow roses from Karen on her birthday. Thank you Karen you made me feel very special. I love you.
Act one – The Arrival Palm Cay Resort and Marina, New Providence Island
We navigated our way into the marina successfully avoiding black areas on the clear blue water - which to us indicated there could be a reef or rocks close to the surface. It turns out almost all of these were deep, well below the surface… better safe than sorry. The marina channel was well marked and although the slip was narrow, Leslie the dockhand, helped us tie up safely. The marina was relatively empty so when Leslie asked me how we heard about the marina and I responded “Robin Davidov”. I was surprised to hear him reply, “She’s here now!” We first met Chris and Robin at Hope Town and again saw them at Spanish Wells, where they were docked right next to us. Robin has written her own cruising guide to the Bahamas, which strongly recommended this marina. I am helping her out by editing and adding to the guide as we go along. We enjoyed their company at Spanish Wells and were delighted to hear they were here in Nassau.
The rest of the day was spent organizing the boat, laundry, (only one working washing machine and many people waiting/fighting for it – can you imagine??), exploring the resort area and having dinner with Chris and Robin. The marina has a courtesy car that each boat can take for up to two hours per day - gasoline included. We signed up to take the car the next day along with Chris and Robin, combining our time for a total of four hours.
Act two – Provisioning
Having been on anchor or a mooring ball for all but one day out of the last two weeks, we were down to boxed milk and very little in the way of bread or fresh vegetables. I was actually proud of the way I managed our provisions and the variety of meals I came up with during that time. While in the Exuma Land and Sea Park, there was nowhere to go out for dinner or grocery shop.
Chris and Robin had been to the Island of New Providence and Nassau four times before so they graciously acted as our tour guides. Chris drove the right side steering wheeled car – on the left side of the road. They took us into Nassau and we had a tour of Fort Charlotte. The Fort was carved out of rock by the British to defend the Island against a possible French invasion but never saw battle.
Tour of Fort Charlotte with Chris and Robin.
Soldiers at Fort Charlotte
Cannons fired at Fort Charlotte.
Carving in the fort wall done by soldier in 1850
Cruise ship in harbor as seen from the fort.
Next we went to one of Chris’s favorite Chinese restaurants for lunch. We learned that Chinese business people are buying up large parts of the Island. The food was delicious – first time we had Chinese since we left Cleveland. After lunch we went to Solomon’s Fresh Market for groceries. While we were a bit rushed going through the store because we wanted to get the car back on time for the next people on the list, we did get almost everything we needed. They had a nice selection of produce – except for bananas which have become a staple for us. That night we had dinner on the boat – the restaurant at the marina was a bit expensive and did not have a wide selection.
Earlier that day we had seen Mariposa (a boat we first met back in West End) come into the marina. We also met a couple from Montreal - Tom and Monique on Miss Moni, a beautiful 55 foot Fleming trawler. After dinner we went up to the bar to have a drink and watch some of the Olympics. The Olympics had been going on for about a week and this was the first time we were able to watch. Tom and Monique joined us at the bar and because they picked up a Canadian TV station, we watched curling. This was a bit ironic because Karen, from Trekker, is a big time curler. Tom explained the strategy and scoring to us – it is actually quite exciting!
Act Three – Exploring
Day three was spent exploring Nassau by ourselves. We drove into the city with Tom and Monique and then set off on foot. First stop was the National Library that was located in a building that had been a prison.
Each of the cells was lined with stacks of newspapers and books. The Library building was being painted so we couldn’t go in - but we peeked through the window and saw the tiny rooms. Next were the pink government buildings and lovely gardens surrounding them.
We wanted to go into one of the court rooms to see a bit of a trial (British style) in session – but were not permitted because Bob was wearing short pants. The straw market is a huge building with many small stalls inside selling shirts, baskets, bags and much more. The building was built by the government to house these shops to attract tourists - much cooler than being out in the hot sun.
We enjoyed seeing the tourists off the cruise ships, which you don’t see in the out islands. We hadn’t done much shopping till now but I bought a watch (mine broke the second month of the trip) and some beautiful hand crafted straw items. They were actually cheaper here than the out islands, which I didn’t understand.
We walked to the Governor’s house, also pink, and then happened upon Graycliff. This is a hotel/restaurant/cigar factory/chocolate factory complex.
Entrance to Graycliff
One of many dining rooms at Graycliff. They had 170 for dinner the night before we were there.
Previously, it was the home of a pirate and is now owned by an Italian family. The hotel is beautifully decorated with oriental rugs and actual period furnishings. It also has a painted tile pool.
Painted tile pool at Graycliff
Many famous people have stayed here and an attendant told us that Jimmy Fallon and his entourage had been there for dinner the prior night (among the 170 people served). The list of celebrities that visited included Lebron James, Michael Jordan and the Duke of Windsor. The hotel complex covers more than a city block – check out the pictures.
Bob in Gray cliff garden
Our last stop before lunch was the National Art Museum, which only features the work of Bahamian artists. The exhibits were very interesting – several dramatizing the struggle of the Bahamian people to define their national identity – post British colonial rule – tropical paradise, tourist haven, slave history, loyalist all rolled up into one.
Sheila getting instructions of where to go for lunch.
We walked back to the harbor area and had lunch at Conch and Kalik. Kalik is the name of one of the local beers. Lunch was delicious. We sat outside on a patio with a cool breeze blowing and took a minute to appreciate how lucky we are making this journey. Every once in a while I have to pinch myself and say out loud – We are in the Bahamas! We really did this!
We took the number 15 bus back to the marina from the city center. The bus was small and had music blaring. It went through some pretty impoverished areas, chickens out walking the streets. When the bus got close to a shopping mall (I use that term loosely) the bus driver asked us if “we knew where we wanted to go or were just sightseeing”. We impressed him by telling him where we had to get off for the marina. From the bus stop we walked to the grocery store, got some bananas and then walked back to the Marina. All in all a 25 minute walk.
We were beat when we got back to the boat and were delighted that Tom invited us over their boat for sundowners. Sundowners, pizza for dinner and great conversation ended a perfect day.
Tom and Monique on Miss Moni
Act Four – Chill out and prepare to leave
I was hoping to spend our last day at Palm Cay chilling by the beach/pool but there was too much to do. First, we had to plan the route for the next phase of the trip. Originally, we thought to go to Chub Cay in the Berry Islands, anchor overnight and then head for Bimini. To arrive in daylight, the distance between Chub and Bimini would require sailing overnight. Because the wind was supposed to increase substantially late Sunday, we decided to do an overnight directly to Bimini – this took hours going over the charts, checking forecasts and making a reservation in Bimini.
I did a thorough cleaning of the head – which over time does not smell as sweetly as we would like. It now smells like Murphy’s Oil Soap. Bob transferred the diesel fuel from the jerry cans into the boat’s tank. We filled the water tank and drinking jugs. I did one last load of laundry and downloaded pictures from our phones to the computer so that they could be added to the blog. We also went back to the grocery store to correct the amount charged to our credit card which was $35 more than it should have been. The day passed so quickly that it was 3:00 pm before we had a chance to go to the pool to cool off and relax.
We left Palm Cay Saturday morning 10:00 am for Bimini – at 5 knots a 25 hour sail.
I never say no to help when coming into or leaving a dock. So, we had a big group help us leave for Bimini: Monique, Tom, MIchelle, dockhand and Phil. Jeff was on Dejavu.