We woke up the morning after Christmas after a peaceful night at the Slaughter Harbor anchorage. After a little bit of breakfast and some coffee I started to gather my things for a swim to the beach. On Mark’s suggestion, I decided to take one of the large fenders with me in case I got tired on the way. I put my book, sunscreen and water in a dry bag and tied it to the fender. I put on my snorkel and fins and did my best impression of a proper SCUBA overboard roll that I could.
The swim in seemed to take forever! It was probably about a quarter mile or so to the closest beach. I foolishly did not put on any dive boots to protect my feet and I could feel where the fins were rubbing my ankles raw about half way to the beach. Oh well, live and learn I guess! Right as I was approaching the beach, a four or five foot long fish swam right underneath me. Since I am lacking a bit in fish identification skills, I kept a close eye on him. He circled around behind me and kept about ten feet away from me as I swam in. I turned around and paddled backwards for a while to keep an eye on him. Eventually he had seen enough and we parted ways.
The approach to the beach was pretty shallow so I ended up walking in for the last stretch. There were no cruise ships in that day so I had the beach completely to myself. It was definitely a strange sight. There were hundreds of chairs lined up all along the different beaches and dozens of little straws cabanas sprouting up in between. The beaches and water were incredible! I kept laughing to myself saying that I was in my very own Corona commercial. I walked for a long time and kept rounding the different points and discovering a beautiful beach around each corner.
Now that I was sufficiently dry from the swim in I sat down to put on sunscreen and rest for awhile. Having only been in theBahamasa few days I was still pretty pale at that point. I decided to head back to the lounge chair area and continue reading “On the Road” under the shade of the cabanas.
Mark is a pretty thorough guy. He has a handheld VHF that we stored away in my dry bag and we planned a 2 pm check in time to make sure everything was ok. I radioed in at the agreed hour and I told him I was planning on hanging out for a little bit longer. The swim in had left me with four nice blisters from the fins so I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the return journey. I finally made the painful swim back and Mark had dinner just about ready when I returned. We took it easy for the rest of the night and read in our bunks.
We decided that our next stop would be the beach side anchorage off of Great Harbor Cay. The total trip was a little over 12 miles so we left around 9 am the next morning. We motored out of the harbor and put up our sails as we passed all the cruise ships and turned south. The winds were light and a little shifty so it took us quite a while to make the 12 mile run. It was getting somewhat late in the day so we decided to motor the last four miles or so to get to the anchorage in good daylight.
The water in the recommended anchorage spot was about 7-8 feet deep almost all the way up to the beach. We were only about 100 feet off the beach when we finally got our anchor set around 3:00 pm. The guide books said that there was a restaurant right near us called the Beach Club. We made sure our anchor was set and we swam in to search for food and drinks.
We asked the first person we saw on the beach if he could direct us toward the Beach Club. He was not too sure and gave us a few vague directions towards the right. We started our way down the beach and kept our eyes peeled for anything that looked like a restaurant. The beach was a lovely, white sand, crescent shape and we were on the far side away from town. We walked for quite a while and finally came up on a family hanging out on the beach. We inquired about the Beach Club and they pointed all the way down the beach back to where we started from. We must have blown right past it! They seemed to think that it closed at 4 pm and we might be out of luck for food there. One lady offered to give us a ride into town a couple of miles down the road to a place they knew would be open. We told them we would gladly accept the ride if it wasn’t a bother to them. The two husbands ended up driving us to the Beach Bar which turned out to be closed and then over to the Rocky Hill Pool Bar in town.
The Pool Bar was pretty much empty except for two people sitting at the counter. A lady stood up and introduced herself. We double checked to make sure she was serving food and cold drinks before our ride took off. Rosebud confirmed that they were and we thanked the guys for the ride and sat down to look over the menu. Everything was a little pricey except for the burgers so we ordered two burgers and two Kaliks (the local version of Corona). Rosebud fired up the grill and cooked us up the tastiest burger I’ve had in a long time. Mark loves a nice dessert to finish up the meal and ordered the Pistachio Nut cake to top off dinner.
We stayed for a couple of drinks and decided it was about time to head back to the boat before it got too dark. The walk back took a little longer than we anticipated and the sky kept getting darker and darker. Along this walk we started thinking about the swim back to the boat. “Hey Mark…you didn’t happen to turn on the anchor light before jumping in did you?”. “No…I guess you didn’t either then huh…”. Hmm, not our best move of the trip so far. We get out to the beach and it is pitch black! We walked down to where we roughly thought the boat was and we couldn’t see a thing! We sat down on the beach and tried to let our eyes adjust to the dark for a while. In so many cases we have over planned everything yet here we sat without a flashlight, fins or anything to help us locate the boat!
It was about 7:00 and we started to accept the sad fact that we would probably have to sleep on the beach and wait for the sun to come up before locating Arcturus. I was definitely not going to just jump out in the dark water and start swimming around blindly looking for the boat. There was a large house a little ways down the beach and I went towards it to see if maybe their porch lights would allow us to find the boat. I crouched down on the beach in front of their house and looked out. Contact! I could just make out the white hull and I was sure it was the boat. I let my eyes adjust a little long and it was definitely her. Fantastic!
I jogged back down to Mark and we started trying to figure out Phase II of the plan. All sorts of scenarios ran through my head. “Hey Mark…I hate to even bring it up…but um, sharks usually come out at night time right?” I’m no expert but I have seen my fair share of Shark Week stories. We talked it over and came up with a plan. We didn’t notice any reefs around and it was all sand around our boat. Not exactly a shark haven. Mark used to swim a lot and volunteered to go first and turn on the anchor light for me. I wasn’t about to argue with him so I lined up with him and the boat and sat on the beach as he disappeared into the water.
That was a scary five minutes! It seemed to take forever but I finally saw the anchor light pop on and off several times to signal his safe arrival. Now it’s my turn! I tried to push aside all the Shark Week horror stories and I put on my mask and snorkel and waded out. My heart was thumping as I started swimming and trying to remain calm. I kept waiting for some big fish face to come up from the dark water and give me a scare. The swim back went just fine and it was actually really beautiful. The water lit up with bioluminescence with every stroke and was a pretty cool sight in retrospect. I climbed up our homemade swim ladder and gave Mark a “We’re stupid but still alive” high five. We settled down for the night glad not to have to sleep in the sand.
I woke up at about 4 am to the boat really rocking around. The wind had shifted and there were some decent waves coming through the harbor. Mark was up and we decided that the anchor was holding fine and we were safe for the time being. The rough conditions continued through the morning but the anchor was holding great. We had about 120 feet of thick chain out with a 25 lb CQR on the end. Mark stayed on the boat and I swam in with my camera and laptop to try and find an internet spot. I walked up to the Beach Club and they pointed me in the direction of the airport for a wireless signal. It was only a block away and they had a little hut on the side of the parking lot for people to sit and wait for their flights. The airport itself was very small with a few planes parked along the side. I set up shop to write a few emails and post the previous slideshow.
A couple of guys came off of the runway and started talking to me. Jerry had recently purchased a house out there that he was refitting and his friend John had come with him to hang out for a few days. John turned out to be a sailor and Jerry was a pilot so I told them they had to meet Mark. They invited us over to their house for Happy Hour later. Shortly after they left my computer battery died. I walked up to the Beach Club for a charge and Jerry and John were there with their wives. I talked with Peggy and Suzie for a while as we ate lunch and agreed to see them later at their house for a drink. Mark wandered into the Beach Club a little bit later and we went back to the airport for awhile as I finished up the rest of my web work.
Even though we left a light on and were both armed with flashlights this time, we made the decision to head over to our new friends’ house a little early after our previous night’s adventure. We arrived at the house and John and Peggy invited us in. The house sat right on Hole 6 of the golf course and looked out over the beautiful beach. I snapped a few photos of Arcturus from their porch and went inside. It was a lovely two story, four bedroom house that they were in the process of redoing. Jerry and Suzie returned from a run into town and we all sat around and talked about sailing and flying and the history of the island for a long time. With the sun low on the horizon, we said our farewells and decided to try a daylight swim back to the boat this time. The anchorage had calmed down and we had a nice swim back before dinner.
We had a tough time convincing ourselves to leave Great Harbor Cay the next morning. We had a great burger place right near the boat and the beachfront was really beautiful. We wanted to make it to Chub Cay for New Year’s Eve so we reluctantly pulled up the anchor and had a mid morning departure for Little Harbor Cay.
We had to motor the majority of our passages so far but the winds were actually favorable to sail as we left the harbor and turned south. We put up full sail and turned the motor off. We had a fantastic sail as we headed south about a mile or so off the coastline. After a pleasant couple of hours we doused the sails and motored towards our anchorage. Little Harbor Cay boasted a towering 80 ft elevation and rocky coastline. We kept it to starboard and turned in right before Cabbage Cay.
We were working our way between the two islands and ended up running aground after we missed our turn to our intended anchorage. So close! We started wiggling around and trying to work our way backwards against the incoming current. A power boat further up the creek came out and offered to help pull us off. Just as we were getting ready to set things up, we broke free and were able to take the correct turn before Lizard Cay. We circled our intended anchorage which seemed to be surrounded by some ominous looking rock clusters. We finally settled on a spot and dropped the anchor. We had a tough time getting settled because the incoming current was the opposite direction of the light breeze. We did a few clean up things around the boat as we hovered for a while half way between forces.
I have never attempted to set up the Portabote on board before so Mark and I talked over a plan to set it up. We were only 50 feet from a nice little beach so I figured I could swim the dinghy in and assemble it there. As we are getting things in position, Mark wanted to try and put it together on board first. It actually worked! The dinghy is 12 feet long and 4.5 feet wide when opened up. We put it cross ways over the cockpit and were able to awkwardly assemble it without having to ferry it to shore. Excellent!
The tide settled during all of this and we finally came around to point into the wind. We mounted the outboard on the dinghy and set off for Flo’s Conch Bar, the only establishment on Little Harbor Cay. The guide books all said that they required three hours notice for their meals so we didn’t expect any food that night. We ran aground two times on the way in but finally made it safely to the dinghy dock. I felt a bug bite right away when I jumped on the dock and looked over my shoulder to see at least twenty or so mosquitoes on my back. Woah! We gotta get out of here! I swatted a handful of them before we jogged up the dock where a slight breeze helped keep the bugs away. The path up the hill to Flo’s was lined with hundreds of conch shells. We walked into the screened porch and ordered a couple of cold Kaliks.
We looked longingly at the menu but the kitchen was closed for the night as we expected. They had a wireless signal but I could not manage to get it to work. We quickly grew tired of the news channel that was on headed back to the boat. The lady told us of the buoys to look for that marked the channel and we had an easy passage back.
We woke up the next morning and decided to have a beach day. We ate a quick breakfast, brewed some coffee and hopped in the dinghy for the short row to the beach. The island was half beach, half scraggly coral rock. The light was good for photos so I set off to explore the island with coffee in one hand and my camera in the other. I rounded the first rocky point and another spectacular beach curved around in front of me. Palm trees lined the beach and the water was a beautiful light blue. I came up to the next point and had a decision to make. There was no path that I could find so I could either crawl through the dense vegetation or walk over a long expanse of the sharp looking rocks. I opted for Plan B and started walking gingerly over the rock outcrop. After about 25 yards I rounded the corner and another 25 yard section separated me from another stunning beach. I managed to make it to the wonderfully soft sand with no blood shed. This next beach was longer and had a section of about 45 yards that was completely covered with huge conch shells! I worked my way through them but it looked fairly well picked over.
I kept walking to the next point and found a large, beautiful shell waiting right on the tide line. Awesome! As I get to the next point I struggled to balance the new shell, coffee mug and expensive camera without stepping on any of the numerous sharp rocks. I found a nice shady palm area and left the shell and coffee mug to retrieve on the trek back. I waded through the water with my camera to the next beach and snapped a few photos. I started dreading the return trip over the long rocky stretch and ended up leaving the camera hanging from a palm tree to rescue with the dinghy later. I retraced my steps and picked up the coffee mug and shell. I decided to create a Plan C with my rock section and waded out into the water to bypass the painful cape. Mark was hanging out on the beach and we hopped into the dinghy to go and secure my camera. I decided to row instead of motor and we ended up circumnavigating the island after we got to Canon Beach.
We finished up our beach day and went back to the boat for a late lunch. As we approached the boat, a huge fish comes out from the shadow of the boat. He looked just like the other one at Slaughter Harbor so I put on my mask and stuck my head in the water to investigate a little closer. He was a big one and seemed content to just hang out around the boat with us.
I ate a quick lunch and jumped into the water to snorkel over to a nearby rock island. The swim was short and worth the effort. A small reef surrounded the little island and there were lots of little reef fish and interesting things to explore. When I got back to the boat a few more boats had arrived at our anchorage. I saw one of them bump the ground as they came in which helped lessen the embarrassment of our entry a bit.
We radioed in to Flo’s and they had closed the kitchen for the day. No conch fritters for us! I hopped in the dinghy and rowed over there anyhow to sit on the dock and try my luck with the internet one more time. I saw several sea stars (not star fish!) in the channel on the way and had an easy trip with the current at my back. The internet was still not working so I made my way back to the boat. I made the turn to go into our anchorage and the current was really flowing out! I had the outboard on the dinghy but I wanted to put my newfound rowing skills to the test. It took quite a while to get back to the boat but I made it without relying on the engine.
I woke up early on New Year’s Eve so that we would have plenty of time to make the 25 mile leg to Chub Cay. All of our previous runs had taken longer than expected and I didn’t want to come in too late and miss the celebrations. We had our breakfast and had the anchor up around 8 am. Mark was at the wheel and I was working with the chart plotter. All of sudden we ran aground right near Cabbage Cay. We were right in the middle of what was supposed to be a clear area but we had hit a little sandbar. The tide was very low but we were able to eventually work our way backwards off of the sandbar. We passed the obstruction and had plenty of water the rest of the way. No harm done!
There was absolutely no wind and the sea was very flat. Well, I guess we are motoring again! We were able to make a consistent five knots and so we enjoyed the warm weather and read on deck. I had finished “On the Road” and started “Shadow Divers”. Most of the passage was uneventful. The water was beautiful and it was interesting to look at the islands through binoculars as we passed by close to shore. We were only a half mile or so from the islands but we were in about 2000 feet of water most of the way! As we got close to Chub Cay the water depth was around 50 feet and we could see all the way to the bottom! I stood on the bowsprit for a while and just watched the ocean floor go by.
We were making great time and pulled into Chub Cay Marina around 1:30 pm. We passed by quite a few expensive boats on the way to our slip. It looked to be a nice protected harbor and the floating docks were top notch. One of the dock hands waved us over and helped us into our slip. He introduced himself as Scotty and gave me a high five for wearing a Braves hat. He directed us towards the office and I went up to pay.
The harbor was fairly empty and there was no surrounding town so I started setting myself up for a low key New Year’s Eve celebration. A menu for the New Year’s Eve dinner buffet was posted on the door of the office. Wonderful sounding dishes were listed one after another. Things like cracked conch, grilled wahoo and grilled shrimp salad were listed right down the page. The only bad news was the $65 price tag at the bottom of the page. No way, looks like soup on board for me!
I settled up at the office and they gave us the bad news that the Island Shoppe had just closed at noon and would not open again until after we left! We were definitely having trouble finding any good celebration drinks! Mark met me at the office and we went into Harry’s Bar next door for a nice lunch. They were closing at 2 pm to prepare the buffet so we just looked at this meal as our proper dinner. We each ordered a tasty burger (usually the most reasonable thing on the menu) and Mark had a piece of homemade chocolate cake for dessert. We bought a few Diet Cokes and Kaliks from the bar to enjoy later on that evening. After lunch Mark made his way to the showers and I went to take a dip in the pool.
There were several half constructed buildings along the way to the pool. I rounded the corner to the pool and it was beautiful. One edge of the pool waterfalled down to another level so that it looked kind of like an endless pool. A tiki bar sat right in the middle so that you could swim up from one side or walk from the beach to the other. The water was a bit chilly so I only stayed in for a minute or so. On the way back I noticed several homemade signs that said to stop by the Tiki Bar for Happy Hour for $3 beers and $5 mixed drinks. Some of the signs said 3 pm and others said 5 pm so I figured I would stop by around 4:30 pm or so and check it out.
I went back to the boat and gathered my things to head to the shower. The showers were located outside of the marina fence and were in a small little house a few hundred yards away. On the way back from the showers I noticed that another sailboat had docked right beside us (we were the only two in the place!). I looked at the name on the back and it was named Arcturus as well! No way! I have never seen another Arcturus so I walked up to the lady in the cockpit and introduced myself. It turns out her husband Herman had sailed down from Philadelphia by himself and she met him later on in Florida. It was an Endeavor 40 and they had owned it for about 20 years. It turns out General Patton owned a boat named Arcturus and he named his after that.
Around 4:30 or so, I went back to the Tiki Bar to see if anything was happening for Happy Hour. No one was there at all! I was a little early so I walked back to the boat for a bit. As I am walking back down the dock, Herman and Lucy yell hello from their cockpit. I told them there was no Happy Hour at the Tiki Bar yet and Herman quickly invited me over for an impromptu Happy Hour aboard the other “Arcturus”. Mark was “on the phone” with the amazing Google Voice app so I motioned my intent to him and walked over to chat with Herman and Lucy.
Lucy made a delicious rum and coke with some select Bacardi and we sat around the cockpit sharing stories. Mark joined us later and we had a great time listening to all the amazing travel tales of our new friends and sharing a few of our own. They were a great couple and we could tell they had been to some interesting places and had a lot of fun in the process. The evening was wearing on and we made our exit so that they could get ready for the big dinner that night.
We headed over to the Tiki Bar to see if things had started up there yet or not. There were two guys sitting around the bar but no one behind it yet. We sat down and they offered us a beer out of their cooler. They were crew for one of the large yachts that had come in. There were seven of them total and they had just arrived early that afternoon. The sun started setting and I was kicking myself for not having my camera with me.
After a while a couple of golf carts pulled up and several people piled out. The party had arrived! They had several cases of different liquors, mixers and beer and two girls started setting everything up behind the bar. Apparently the Tiki Bar had been out of operation for a while but they occasionally came in and set up shop during the summer time to make some extra college cash. Works for me! Everyone settled in and started chatting. Through the next few hours we had conversations with just about everybody. The two bartenders were Sarah and Jaclyn. Sarah’s parents, Joe and Jennifer, had a house on the island. Jaclyn was Sarah’s best friend and made the trip with the family for many years. Rhonda and her husband (Woodbine, I think?) were also friends of the family that had come out. The crew of the motor yacht was a lot of fun too so things started looking promising for an exciting night. We even had fireworks right around sunset!
Everyone left to get ready for dinner and Mark and I went back to have a delicious soup dinner. One of the marina guys told me about a place called the Hilltop near the shower area that was going to have music and people later on that night. We sat around for awhile chatting and enjoying our cold Kaliks before heading back to the Tiki Bar. Everyone was already set up when we returned and we settled down to enjoy the last three hours of 2011. There were lots of great conversations and Woodbine even breathed fire once with one of the shots. The girls were giving everyone one complimentary 151 shot so I joined in on that. Mark was “taking care of the Skipper” and making sure I didn’t go empty handed.
Right around 11:45 pm we made a mad scramble to pack everything up and try and make it to the Hilltop in time for midnight. Mark and I helped load things up and we hopped on the golf carts to off load everything at their house. We rushed everything onto the porch and we took off on a crazy, high speed roller coaster ride down the dirt path to the Hilltop.
The Hilltop ended up being the perfect spot that Mark and I were looking for. There was loud music coming from inside and quite a few people dancing inside. The building itself looked to be a house that had been cleared out and turned into a bar. They had a TV on inside with the ball dropping and we were able to grab one last drink in 2011 before midnight.
The rest of the night was a lot of fun; certainly lots of dancing and celebrating to be had by all. We called it a somewhat early night and went to bed around 1 am. Mark and I woke up the next morning to clean the boat for a bit. We had promised Jaclyn and Sarah that we would take them sailing around 11 am or so. We weren’t sure if that was going to happen or not but it was a good excuse to clean the boat. Joe came by and told us to swing by the house a little later for coffee if we wanted and that the sail might be questionable. As we were walking up, Jaclyn and Sarah informed us a sailing trip wasn’t looking too enticing after the affects of New Year’s celebration. No worries! We stopped by the house for a bit and went back to the boat.
Mark was hoping to get one more piece of that delicious cake before leaving so we went to Harry’s for lunch before heading out. We left the harbor and anchored out off of the beach near the Tiki Bar. Mark opted to hang out on the boat and I rowed into the beach with the camera to try and get some nice sunset shots with Arcturus in the harbor. I brought my Exumas chart books and studied up on the next leg of the trip.
Sarah and Jaclyn saw me on the beach and we hung out and talked for a while. After they left, Joe came by to see about our plans. I talked with him for a long time and he told me lots of great stories about previous boating trips and diving excursions. He definitely has an adventurous spirit and it was lot of fun talking with him. The girls came back by a little later and brought a gift of some of the homemade doughnuts they had just made. Awesome!
It was still a little while before sunset and Joe came around once more and we talked for a while longer about the next leg of the trip. I walked around as the sun began to drop and tried to pick the best vantage point for the photos. The clouds were great and I had some nice palm trees in the foreground. The light was great for a long time and I think I was able to capture a few winners for sure.
The bugs started eating me up so I rowed back to the boat and Mark was just finishing up the dinner prep as I tied off the boat. Definitely a good crew mate! Our plan was to leave around 11 pm so that we had plenty of time to make the 36 mile trip to Nassau and arrive in daylight. A really nasty cold front was coming through the next night and following day so we needed to get in before that.
We pulled up the anchor at eleven and set out to another calm night. There was hardly any wind at all and the moon was beautiful reflecting off the water. I took the first shift from 2200 to 0130. I had finished “Shadow Divers” in nearly one day on the trip over and needed a new book. I took out the Kindle and looked at the list of older books that I had on reserve. I decided on “Moby Dick” and read through the whole shift. Amazing book! Great descriptions and storytelling. Mark wasn’t able to sleep and came on at 0130. He let me sleep an extra half hour before waking me up at 0500 (great crew mate!).
Still no wind so we motored the rest of the way into Nassau. There were three cruise ships making their way into the harbor as we approached but they cleared out well before we got there. We radioed Harbor Patrol for permission to enter and turned to go into the harbor at 0800. We passed by lots of huge ships and chose Nassau Yacht Haven as our docking spot.
We pulled in with no problems and got checked into the office. We ate breakfast, showered up and went into town to explore. After the beauty of the outer islands, neither of us were particularly impressed with Nassau. I was anxious to find an internet signal and check in with the family. Little did we know that Jan. 2 is a holiday and hardly anything was open. We ended up at Starbucks and I was able to check in and do some work.
The rest of our time in Nassau was fairly uneventful. We ate breakfast at the reasonable Café Carib each morning before I went over to Starbucks for my internet signal. I spent most of the three days in Starbucks catching up on the work that needed to be done with Camp and the business. We went to Happy Hour at the Poop Deck restaurant near the marina for complimentary Conch Fritters and lower priced beer. We made a trip one morning into the cruise liner district onBay Streetand were blown away by the amount of expensive shops around. The rest of Nassau seemed to be in rougher shape but this area was over polished with lots of people running around shopping. Kind of overwhelming compared to our quiet beachside anchorages.
So now I am preparing for the next leg of the trip. Mark left this afternoon to head back to Florida. It will be quite different without him for sure. We had lots of great conversations and he was always willing to help out with everything around the boat.
John and Jess, a cool couple that I met at the Poop Deck last night, sold me on the aquarium over at Atlantis on Paradise Island. It sounded pretty interesting so I went that direction after Mark took off. The line just to purchase a pass for the aquarium looked to be over an hour long so I decided to save that for another trip. I have been here most of the afternoon wandering through the casinos and looking at all the fancy buildings. I purchased a high speed internet pass for the day and have been finishing up the rest of my work. I am hanging out in one of the restaurants now trying to clear everything off of the table before the next leg of the trip.
I will probably be in Nassau one more day and then head out early the morning of Jan. 7 to go over to Allen’s Cay. From there I’ll work my way down the Exuma chain for a while and probably go as far as Georgetown before turning around. I’ll post a slideshow with more photos right after this. If you made it through this crazy long post then I am really impressed. Nice work and thanks for reading! More stories and photos to come soon! -Daniel