This past season we had hoped the big news for the blog was going to be a trip to the Ragged Islands. Since the lockdowns and protocols in the Bahamas were ever changing and at times contradictory we stayed put in Long Island for about eight weeks and then made the run back to Florida. It wasn’t a great season for photos as we were restricted to the boat for about 1/3 of the cruising season, but here’s what’s left of what we got …..
After our harrowing experience at Little San Salvador we made our way to Rock Sound, Eleuthera later that day and anchored for a few weeks….it ended up being longer then anticipated due to some clumsiness on my part.
I had decided that we were due for an oil change. We were way under on engine hours but over on the time frame for an oil change, so I decided to change the oil and filter while we were here. Well, long story short, I pumped out the used oil, without spilling a drop (which I should have known was a bad sign) but couldn’t find my slimline strap wrench to remove the filter. So, I went to the local NAPA and bought a slightly larger wrench that I hoped would work. Unfortunately, the width of the new wrench snagged the oil cooler line and ruptured it….uh-oh…..bad weather was forecast for the upcoming weekend and after the Little San Salvador incident this was almost too much to deal with….essentially we were going to be without an engine until we received a new line….which in the Bahamas could take weeks……and it did…..we spent about three and a half weeks total and it turned out to be a good thing because we had time to see things and visit our favorite spots again and again.
Part of the moral to this story is ….take plenty of spare parts when you venture away from the U.S. We have a cruiser’s kit onboard but it doesn’t include oil cooler lines. I won’t make that mistake again……
here’s a satellite image of Eleuthera. The pin is Rock Sound. The Glass Window Bridge is in the skinny part of the island just north of Gregory Town.
Image courtesy of Google Maps
We considered renting a car, but ran into the insurance issue again, so we hired a driver (Lyle) to give us a tour of the island. He was a super nice guy and was full of knowledge about spots on the island. The price wasn’t bad, eight hours for $125 plus he knew a great place for lunch.
The Glass Window bridge is in northern Eleuthera and is one of the few places you can see the Atlantic and the banks side of the ocean at the same time. It’s more impressive when the weather is unsettled but still pretty cool.
the west side of the Glass Window….
Beautiful beachfront church in Rock Sound
In the spider cave….Kim doesn’t look worried at all….
We found this little guy dead on the side of the road….that’s about a 2″ Gatorade lid for scale…..maybe he was hit by a car…..I wonder how badly the car was damaged?
The “boiling hole” is essentially a blue hole or a cave that is connected to the ocean. At times, if the tide rises or falls rapidly, the water will churn and bubble. Many of the early residents believed these holes were homes to sea monsters. Animal and fish carcasses would occasionally surface in these holes after hurricanes which only reinforced that belief.
Kim looks apprehensive …..
The beaches on the east side of Eleuthera were among some of the most beautiful and isolated….there was also a TON of seaglass…..
We found a great little restaurant and resort on the east side of Eleuthera across from Rock Sound. It was owned by a wonderful lady named Rose Gibson. She was super friendly, would pick us up when she saw us walking around town, took us for an impromptu island tour one day while fish shopping and was a great cook !!! There are five cabins on her property that are on a hillside overlooking the ocean…..
Here’s a link to her website…..if you go tell her Brett and Kim sent you !!!
Remnants of the former Cotton growing industry spring up all over the island ……
There were thousands of these little land crabs running back and forth between the foliage and the surf….dropping off their eggs
A cropped version of this photo of Kim was used in Cruising Outpost Magazine’s weekly online photo collection….
Mike arrives and brings a double rainbow….and has a Kalik !!
Since Hurricane Irma’s recent swing past the Bahamas you’ll be pleased to know that the islands here were largely untouched. We haven’t heard of any structural damage anywhere in Eleuthera.
On March 31st, we departed from Georgetown with our friends Bill and Judy, they were on their boat Whisper, and we covered the approximately 45 miles to Long Island. For us that’s about a ten hour day. We had heard a lot of good things about Long Island and they all turned out to be true!!
The red pin on the satellite image is Thompson Bay / Salt Pond where we were anchored for the bulk of our long stay in Long Island…..which ended up being about 16 days…..we made one aborted attempt to leave with another of our friends, Mark on Halo, but it turned out to just be too rough that day so we turned back and spent four more days waiting for the wind to die down some more……
Image courtesy of Google maps
We met a nice Canadian couple, who winter in Long Island, while we were at a local restaurant and we mentioned renting a car to see the island. The husband said he knew a minister at a local Boys Club who would let him drive us around in their van if we wouldn’t mind making a donation to the organization. Since we could fit three couples plus our tour guides in the van that was much cheaper than renting a car and we got a free tour guide !!
We have discovered that renting cars in the Bahamas can be problematic. Bahamians don’t have insurance in the way that we are accustomed to thinking about it. If they have a wreck and they are at fault, their insurance company won’t pay to fix their car unless they have what they call “comprehensive” coverage (apparently different from the comprehensive we have in the states that covers window glass etc etc) but it is prohibitively expensive and none of the rental car businesses offer it. On top of that most rental companies don’t take credit cards so you have trouble making sure you’re covered here. Couple that condition with our friend’s George Town experience detailed below and you’ll understand why we went the van route.
Another of our new friends (I won’t mention his name here) rented a car in George Town. He was pulled off to the side of the road trying to get his bearings when an intoxicated local guy hit his rental car head on. When the police showed up they called the other driver by name and he quickly disappeared from the scene. Our friend, however, was whisked away to the police station where he was cited. The whole incident cost him about $300 out of pocket and cost his credit card company $5,000 for the rental car. One day while he was in town walking around he stopped by the police station to try and get a copy of the report for the his credit card company. The officer, without warning, told him he had to appear in court immediately. He was obviously not dressed for the occasion. He was nearly fined for contempt for wearing swim trunks and a t-shirt to court. Fortunately, he was able to explain he had been given no notice that he was to appear and the judge believed him. It was his intention to plead not guilty, but he was told he wouldn’t be allowed to leave the Bahamas until his trial day ….IN THREE MONTHS…which was beyond his visa expiration. Thankfully, when he rented the car, he had found a place that took credit cards and they covered the rental car damage, or it could have been much, much worse. So we decided to put a ban on renting cars in the Bahamas.
The “tour” took us to an old Spanish church with an interesting cave behind it…..the locals call it Shrimp Cave….
my apologies for the odd order of the photos ….they refused to let me rearrange them once I uploaded them this time.
A pink crab in Shrimp Cave….I wonder if he’s pink because of all the Shrimp he eats ? Like a flamingo ?
A stretch of beach on the west side just north of Thompson Bay….
Me hunting for Whelks……
This is the church from our tour …..
We also went down south a short way to a settlement called Dean’s. Now here’s an interesting oddity. In the Bahamas they say “down North” or “Up South”. It was explained to me that because of the general orientation of the sunrise and sunset it appears to rise, or come “up” in a more southerly direction and go “down” in a more Northerly direction….rather than the map orientations where North is usually up and South is usually down.
Dean’s is the home to the aptly named “Dean’s Blue Hole”….. currently the second deepest documented Blue Hole in the world…..the current deepest known one was recently discovered in China…..at least it was discovered after the sign below was made…..
There were some free divers practicing for the upcoming competition. It was interesting to watch them prepare for the practice dives……
Kim’s Manatee friend….
The east side beach scenes……the east side beach in Long Island was the first place we found seaglass in any quantity and Kim immediately started making charms …….
An interesting formation of seagulls….commonly called “gully’s” here in the Bahamas…..
About two thirds of the way as you go up Long Island, there is a resort community that was founded in the 60’s called Stella Maris. The development was surveyed and subdivided but not much building ever occurred away from the main beach area. There are a lot of empty lots and some nice isolated hilltop houses in the area. They also have an interesting salt water pool….why build a pool with all those complicated pumps and filters when you can just cut a channel through the rock to the ocean???? This was one of three pools in the development. If you own a house here you get resort privileges for about $300 a year.
One of our other stops during our tour was a second cave system called Hamilton Cave…..it is usually a guided tour but the guide was already inside with another group so we just wandered around the main entryway waiting…..we decided happy hour was fast approaching and decided not to wait for his return…..
The caves in the Bahamas are frequently more caverns than true caves as they are open in many places above. This is generally caused by erosion and tree roots working their way through the ceilings looking for water……some of these tree roots look like bundles of telephone poles…..
Another shot of Dean’s Blue Hole
The below photos are actually Shrimp Cave but somehow they wouldn’t stay in order as I was writing this post…..
Here’s a shot of Kim to round out this blog entry lounging on a stone formation on Long Island’s east beach……
So, in early February we made the run from Little Farmers Cay to George Town to send Mike home from that airport. We were sad to see Mike leave, but, he has a home and boat of his own. The palm fronds were taking over his yard and breaking out all of his windows (hahaha inside joke there)……
George Town is west of and adjacent to Elizabeth Harbor, which is bordered on its East side by Stocking Island. Stocking is the home to a few interesting sights. Boats in George Town tend to do what they call the “George Town shuffle”. As the wind changes directions the boats scurry from side to side of the harbor trying to hide from it to insure a smoother night’s sleep at anchor and a shorter, drier dinghy ride to shore. We are fortunate enough to weigh in at about two to three to three times what the average sailboat weighs, so unless it’s blowing over 20 knots consistently and we are very exposed we sleep well at anchor no matter what. That weight, coupled with our 85lb Mantus anchor and our inventory of 300′ of 3/8″ chain tends to keep us in place and peaceful once we set the hook. It has the added bonus of allowing us to avoid anchoring close to the crowds all desperately seeking that protection.
The below image centers on Elizabeth Harbor…..with George Town in the lower left corner. One of the interesting features of G-Town is Lake Victoria. That’s the small lake in the center of town that is open to the harbor via a small overpass/tunnel that makes you feel like you’re on a small water ride at Disney. I could never get a straight answer from anyone about whether or not the lake access was manmade or natural and the bridge was simply added for vehicular access…..but my gut tells me the water access was cut for boats to enter and the bridge added afterward.
Satellite image courtesy of Google Maps
We spent ten days, a few before Mike’s flight and a few after. We had to get away from G-Town though, as it is crowded and was becoming more so as the cruiser’s regatta approached. There were over 400 boats by some accountings. Now, don’t get me wrong…it’s a huge harbor….but that’s still a lot of people and boats for a lifestyle we chose because of an ability to escape crowds….We met some great people in George Town, we just didn’t want to meet ALL of them in one week…..
We are asked about George Town a lot and the only way I can describe it is a “summercamp” (although technically in winter) for adult boaters. There are quotidian activities that made it feel a bit like groundhog day, …..volley ball, yoga, art classes, water aerobics and so forth. It’s ok in small doses for us, but that’s about it. Different strokes for different folks. There were some people who stayed there for the whole season and it is their entire destination every year.
We went back to George Town a few weeks later when two of my childhood friends (Bob & Tom) came to visit for a week. That’s right..in the Bahamas it’s……Brett’s childhood friends 2 Kim’s childhood friends 0 ….hahaha
Swim faster Bob …..it’s coming …..
At Peace n Plenty ……
There was some decent hiking to be done, some spear fishing and snorkeling in the George Town area. We even managed to get a dozen whelk (a catchall name for a variety of species snails) which we boiled, cleaned and dipped in garlic butter. I thought they tasted like chewy lobster….Kim disagreed…..the parts we had to clean off made great bait though….
A whelk of the variety which we feasted upon…..
and Tom caught this …….he was kind enough to call it a team effort …..
Tom and Bob looking for Atlantis…..on the east side of Stocking Island….
The stone monument on Stocking Island east of George Town……view from the bottom
The view from the top…..
Me…..one foot in the dark and one in the light …..as usual
Tom, me and Bob……at the Chat n’ Chill Beach
Cordell Thompson of the Exumas Historical Society giving a talk about the history of the Exumas…….
Mutton Snapper!!!! Caught during our first stay with Mike…
The famous Peace n Plenty hotel…..it became our favorite place due to Jamaro, Emmitt and Tim (plus his adorable son Mason) the bartenders !!!!
As we made our way South through the Exuma chain of islands, we found what would become our favorite stop…..Little Farmer’s Cay. We spent a total of about six weeks here (between February and March) before and after a short George Town trip to get Mike to the Airport for his flight home to Tampa.
Satellite Image courtesy of Google Maps
Little Farmer’s is home to the Farmers Cay Yacht Club (FCYC) which is located on the Northeast tip of the Cay. The FCYC is owned and operated by two of the sweetest people we have ever had the pleasure to meet. Roosevelt (Roosie) and Shirley (Bo short for Bolene, her middle name) Nixon have run this Marina for about 27 years and Roosevelt just celebrated his 82nd birthday !!!! Their son Julian and his wife Daryll live just down the street from the yacht club also and are an amazing couple. Julian works for the electric company and Daryll runs a gift shop where she sells her handmade jewelry and is also the local agent for Flamingo Air.
Kim decided to hang her coffee mug, formerly my mom’s, up for this shot…..
The Nixons !!! “Roosie and Bo”
My sister Jo and I in the cave on Great Guana Cay Northeast of Little Farmers.
Jo realizing her lifelong dream of petting a sea turtle…..
This is Kim and I with Earnestine Bain….wife of Terry Bain and co-owner of the Ocean Cabin Bar and restaurant. She is one sweet lady. There must be something in the water at Little Farmers that makes everyone so nice!!! She and her husband Terry (who took this photo and is pictured below at the party) have operated this establishment for over 25 years….Terry’s mother built the original bar. We attended their 25th wedding anniversary and Earnestine’s birthday party while we were at Little Farmers Cay…..it’s a great place and Terry makes a doozy of a drink named for the bar…..we came to know them as “the blue drinks that make Kim sleepy”
Terry and Merissa at the party….
A freshly speared Lionfish….which I gave to our new friend Dave on a catamaran named Fifth Quarter…..then moments later …..
Dave’s subsequent Lionfish sting……if you ever get tagged by a Lionfish submerge the injured area in the hottest water you can stand for as long as you can…..sorry Dave…glad it’s better
On our way South we stopped off for a few days near Staniel Cay which is also near where some scenes from the James Bond movie Thunderball was filmed. These were shot at the aptly named “Thunderball Grotto” ……We also hit Big Majors which is the Cay famous for the pigs who live on the island.
This is a shot of Kim which we made for a good friend’s son who needed photos for a project with words or phrases describing him. We thought it would be fun to add a pig….
Dinghy ride Piggy ??? Mike standing “guard” over the dinghy …..
This was an odd one ….I’ve never seen a nurse shark with these kind of markings….
After the hustle and bustle of New Providence it was nice to know we’d be back out on the hook soon. We departed Palm Cay Marina shortly after Junkanoo and moved to Allen’s Cay, the northernmost island of the Exuma chain. Allen’s is known for its population of “prehistoric Iguanas.
(Above Image courtesy of Garmin BlueChart)
Kim’s new friend…..
We lucked out when we arrived at Allen’s Cay. As we entered the cut, a power catamaran exited the small cove at the North end of West Allen’s Cay….you can partially see the armada of sailboats anchored in the north side between the two main parts of Allen’s Cay.
Kitty Hawk safely anchored at the SW Allen’s Cay Cove.