February 29, 2016 Leap Day
I wake up around 5:00 and check out the weather. The weather looks good for several days out. We now have a good window to move. I wake Karen to let her know we have a good weather window and ask her where does she want to go the Jumentos or Cat Island. She chooses Cat because it is still too cold for snorkeling in the Jumentos. We get up and make ready for the move. I top off fuel and water tanks with the jugs on deck while Karen secures everything below. We have everything buttoned down by 7:00 and pull up the anchor.
The winds are predicted to be blowing 14 to 17 knots out of the east so it should be perfect weather for sailing either north or south. The winds are light so we set sail and keep the motor running. We need to make good time because we have 63 nautical miles to cover from Salt Pond where we are leaving to New Bight on Cat Island that we hope to arrive at this evening. The winds remain eight to twelve knots which means if we turn the engines off we would do about 4.5 knots and would get to our destination at about 21:00. Travelling into an unknown harbor at night is not a good idea so the engine stays on all day.
We start in the lee of Long Island heading northeast . The seas are pretty flat but the waters depth run from seven to eleven feet deep so we have to keep an eye on the depth finder and watch the water. We dodge the dark spots in the water which are usually coral heads. We don't want to take on one of those with our hull. The passage along the lee of Long Island is uneventful.
Once we get into deeper water we put out our fishing lines hoping to get a Mahi Mahi. This is about the area where we caught our Mahi Mahi two years ago but it was much later in the season. The waters are still too cold for good fishing now but we can still leave the lures in while we travel and see what happens. You never know.
We finally get out of the lee of Long Island and into open seas. The seas are not too bad yet. The rollers are running about three to four feet and we still have the wind on our beam. It is very good motor sailing weather. If we had a little more wind we could cut the motor but no such luck today.
The auto pilot has the helm so there is not much to do. We pass one freighter heading to Georgetown but other than that is remains quiet. I pull out my Journal and try to play catch up. When we are ashore we get busy doing other things and don't get much time to keep up the Journals so if we are motor sailing with the autopilot there is not much else to do but write and enjoy the ride.
We soon lose sight of Long Island and a bit later we see Cat Island right where it should be north- northeast of us. The charts show a mountain coming up from the floor of the Atlantic to within forty feet of the surface. This looks pretty cool so we change course to see what this is all about. We arrive where this mountain should be but see no color difference in the water. The wave pattern is a little different here but no other telltale signs of the difference in depth. That was a bit disappointing. We change course back to our original destination.
We continue to Hawks Nest Point and make our final turn towards New Bight. The winds are now on our nose so we bring in the sails. Once behind Hawks Nest point the waters are quite protected so we have a flat motor in for the next ten miles. The water is now running about 30 feet deep and the colors and the clarity of water is great. We pull in our fishing lines because this is Barracuda waters. We don't need to catch any of them, they are not something that we want to eat and some of them carry disease that is harmful to humans.
We arrive at about 17:00 and drop our anchor in eight feet of water about a quarter mile from the beach. There is good protection all around except from the southwest. This appears to be a pretty good harbor. We also seem to have it all to ourselves. The anchor sets quickly so we tidy up and then get ready to fix dinner. The winds are light so I get the grill started for hamburgers. The results of the grilling taste great!
We check the depth of the water at low tide to make sure we have plenty of depth. We are in about seven feet of water at low tide and we draw just under six feet so we can rest easy for the night. Nobody wants to be surprised by an unwanted grounding.
March 1, 2016
We got up early and headed ashore for the beach by the Government Dock at New Bight, Cat Island. I dropped the anchor for the dinghy but set it too far out to let the dinghy make shore. I tried again and still too far out. On the fifth try we could reach shore with the dinghy anchor set. I then took our spike and drove it into the sand to tie our painter to that. Now we can be assured that our dinghy is not going anywhere.
We find a place to dump our trash and then sit down and clean the sand off our feet so we can put on our sandals for today's trek. We find the road to the Hermitage just in front of the Government Dock and head up the road. The Hermitage is about a mile hike and built on the highest point in the Bahamas at 206 feet above sea level. The Hermitage is a miniature monastery built by Father Jerome Hawes in the early 1900s which also includes the twelve stations of the cross.
We take the paved road up the mountain through what was once cultivated fields which now for the most part has gone back to nature. We arrive at the stone arch marking the beginning of the Hermitage property and begin walking the rocky trail up to the stations of the cross. The climb is pretty easy until you reach the stations of the cross which is a fork to the right in the trail. When you start with the first station of the cross it becomes a very steep arduous climb. Father Jerome wanted you to feel some of the pain that Jesus went through. Each station is a small picture of what Christ went through on the last day of his life.
The last station is at the top of the hill where the monastery resides. There is a bell tower, a chapel, kitchen, a rectory and a dining room that you can just barely walk through. His construction has stood the test of time very well. After taking our pictures of the monastery and the views all around we take the back trail which is much less arduous down the hill.
We return to our dinghy to find the spike has broken loose and the dinghy is floating off the beach. It is a good thing we also put out the anchor because it is the only thing keeping it from drifting away. We return to the boat for lunch and then back ashore to find the grocery store about 1.5 miles down the road. This time I plant the spike holding our dinghy in a lot deeper into the sand.
We walk down the beach road which is lined with small shops that are all closed and one large building which is the sailing club. Most of these buildings are in good shape but not currently in use. The road turns away and we begin to walk through the residential areas that are scattered with abandoned loyalists' home ruins and homes that are newer built and are in various stages of occupation. With all the abandoned homes it makes you wonder where all the people went.
We heard that this island used to have a thriving agrarian economy until the government here separated from England. The new government passed laws that make it illegal for the foreigners who were cultivating the fields to own and work the lands. The foreigners left and took their knowledge of how to work the lands with them. These lands went fallow and now nature has taken it over with the local vegetation. Now most of the produce here comes from the states.
This island also claims that Christopher Columbus landed here first when he found the Americas. This island was also the childhood home of Sidney Poirtier. He emigrated to the US when he was a young adult in the 1950s and was horrified at the poor treatment of the blacks in the states. He had never experienced such treatment on his home island which was almost entirely black.
We find the grocery store which also has a liquor store right next door. The grocery store also has cars to rent if you want to see the island. We pick up a few groceries and head back the way we came and back to the boat to put away our perishables.
A little while later Adirondack (Jeff Janacek and Sally Colwell) came over and asked us if we wanted to share a car rental tomorrow and see the island. We responded "Count us in." Jeff continued to try to sell us in the deal until we reminded him we were already in. We did not know they were on the boat named Adirondack because their dinghy said Raven on it. They told us there were free showers ashore so as soon as they left we packed up our toiletries and headed ashore for a shower.
The bathrooms were recently built for the boaters like us to use. The facilities are clean and well kept. It was great to get a shower on shore. This was the first stand up shower we have been in in a long time!
We put our old clothes in the dinghy and walked over to Hidden Treasures for drinks and dinner. We met Denise the proprietor there who was very friendly. She really made you feel at home. There were four generations of here family there while we were there: her mother, her daughter and her granddaughter. We were here only customers for a while. I both ordered grilled lobster. The meal was not fast but very well done and delicious. She took great pride in her work.
We head back to our dinghy and stop by Adirondack. Now knowing the name of their boat we remind them we had met two years ago at Carolina Shores State Park and also solidify the plans for tomorrow's tour of the island.
As we head back to our boat we see that Bright Ayes has caught up to us, so we head over to visit with them. We give them a rundown on what we know of the island and then return to our boat for the evening.
March 2, 2016
We were up early and went ashore to meet up with Adirondack to pick up our car at 7:30 when the gas station opened. There were already cars waiting at the gas pump when we arrived but the station was not open. We were a few minutes early but there was no one there even after 7:30. We have to remember we are on Island Time.
About 7:45 the proprietor showed up with her daughter and granddaughter. The first filled the cars waiting at the pump and then helped us with our rental. She brings the car around and tells us to make sure we fill it up before we return it. A weird reminder at a gas station that rents cars. She is the only gas station on the island. Never did she offer a friendly word and always a mile long attitude.
We all pile into the car, Karen and I in the back and Jeff driving with Sally navigating. We head south for Hawks Point. There seems to be more soil on this island and the vegetation a bit different than the others we have visited. I would think that the soils here could support farming very well. We did see some corn being grown and some other local produce but the land here seems underutilized.
The land on the southern part of the island is pretty flat. We drive down to the roundabout and go through it to the left. That feels entirely wrong. We take the road out of the roundabout to Devils Point. We then pass through McQueen's and finally into Hawks Nest.
We first see an airstrip on the left side of the road and across the street from the airstrip is the restaurant and reception building. We drive by these buildings and drive across the runway and a bit further down to find the marina. Jeff wants to check out the marina and scuba trips availability.
We check out the marina. The entrance is quite small and faces the south. A good south wind would make the marina really rolly. The docks are old and wooden. The area has a couple of buildings but is not at all attractive. I am not sure how they get away with charging $2.65 a foot for these facilities. It must be the scuba diving that attracts people here.
We head back to the restaurant and check it out. It again is another building built in the late 60s or early 70s. There have been no updates to the décor but the buildings and grounds are well maintained. I go into the gift shop and pick out a long sleeve wicking t-shirt. The guy behind the counter never looks up from his computer and ask us if we need any help. This is also the registration desk. We walk to the counter and ask to pay for the shirt. He collects the money not moving from his chair and goes back to reading on the computer. Not once a friendly word, strange, and we have been told the people on this island are so friendly.
We head east for Port Howe. At Port Howe there is a gorgeous anchorage with room for about five boats. If you had weather without a southern element to it, it would be a great anchorage. Currently there are three boats parked there and it seems quite cozy. Jeff says he might park there tomorrow.
We then head north to Greenwood Beach Resort and check it out. Again the décor is from the late 60s to early 70s. There must have been a huge amount of development at that time before the Bahamas gained their independence. They started running drugs through the islands in the 80s and must have scared all the development off the island.
Greenwood Beach Resort is on a nine mile stretch of beach on the eastern side of the island. The area is just gorgeous. The owner passed away three years ago and the sons of the owner had done nothing with the property until recently. There is a young French couple working the facility and cleaning it up. It is really beginning to take shape. If you want a small place off the beaten path, this is where I would go.
We head for the Healing Hole. The day is beginning to warm up and the air conditioning quits working. We try to roll down the windows and they don't work on the left hand side of the vehicle. We decide to return our vehicle and get a new one after we do the Healing Hole which we never find.
We get to the gas station and return the vehicle. They fill the car up with $60 worth of fuel and expect us to pay for it. The vehicle was ¾ of the way full when we picked it up. She finally relents to having us only pay $30 which in my opinion is still too much. She pulls out another vehicle and takes it to the pump. She starts filling and watches the fuel gauge. When it shows full she stops pumping. She is probably gouging ever rental customer that way and making an additional $20 in gas by not topping up the tank fully until the customer comes back with the vehicle.
We take our replacement vehicle and head north. The highway runs along the beach here for several miles. It is a beautiful day for travelling the island. The waters all along the highway are just gorgeous.
We stop at Yardies Bar and Restaurant for lunch. We order conch salad and curried mutton. The food was great and not very expensive . The owner was quite friendly which is a change from what we have seen here so far.
After lunch we again head north a far as we can but run out of navigable road. We turn east at the first chance to find the beach on the eastern side of the island. The literature provided to us says the beach there is good for finding sea glass. The road is quite rough and overgrown. There are many huge mud puddles in the road that we have to navigate as well. It has not rained in several days so we are not sure why there are all these mud puddles.
We stop at a blue hole along the way to check it out. The water is a bit salty but the vegetation around it is very lush, so it must not be salty enough to kill off the local vegetation. This blue hole is only about 50 feet across but is probably several hundred feet deep.
We press on down the road until we can go no further. We get out of the car and walk another quarter mile down the road and finally arrive at the beach. It is not much beach. There is a lot of coral rock all about but there is plenty of sea glass to be found as promised. We scour the area for sea glass and then head back to the car.
We head back down the road and stop at a cave we saw along the way. The entrance is at ground level and goes back several hundred feet. This must have been a settlers dwelling at one time because a little way back there is a wall with a window and a door across the cave. We explored the cave and then returned to our car and headed south.
We stop in Arthur's Town a little further south to do some shopping at one of the shops and then head further south to another cave we passed. This cave is just off the road and labeled the "Bat Cave." The entrance is at ground level, is narrow and low but opens up to a huge room about 200 feet back. The ceiling in this room is about twenty feet up and lives up to its name. The ceiling is covered with bats. There are also several other entrances to the main room that come from the outside. After exploring this cave we return to our car and head back down the road to the grocery store to pick up a few things before returning our car.
We went over to Hidden Treasures for happy hour. Karen and Sally had Mango daiquiris that were to die for. The proprietor at Hidden Treasures really takes pride in her food. The service may not be fast but whatever she serves is great and worth waiting for.
March 3, 2016
We planned to leave today but after listening to the weather report from Chris Parker we choose the safer route and stay another day. Our friends on Bright Ayes went north and Adirondack headed south. We chilled for most of the day and then went ashore for a shower. It is amazing how good a shower feels after not having one for a few days. After the shower we went back to Hidden Treasures for dinner and drinks. The food was coming off the supply boat so we had to wait an hour before Denise could start our dinner. We helped her label and pack here dried peas that she was sending to Nassau for sale while waiting for the meal. We were treated as part of the family. It was a nice evening.
March 4, 2016
We walked up to the Hermitage again hoping to cross to the other side of the island to find a beach on the western side of the island. We found one trail that looked promising but it was really overgrown and then dropped precipitously off the back side of the hill. Going down that trail would take some serioius scrambling which we were not prepared to do. We tried another trail off the back side of the Hermitage but it ended at a cave with a panoramic view of the western shore. One opening to the cave was walled off. This may have been occupied by a settler at one time as well. It had quite a view.
We gave up and headed back to the boat. We found an abandoned field of tomatoes on our way back. We were able to salvage a few good tomatoes from the hundreds of rotten ones in the field and took them back with us to eat. They were great tasting tomatoes.
We still had most of the day left so we checked the weather and decided to head down to Orange Creek. We pulled the anchor and motored out about three miles before setting sail. It is a great sailing day. The winds are blowing out of the east at 10 to 15 knots and the seas are quite flat. We are sailing on a close reach and the sails are tuned so well we barely have to touch the wheel. Sweet.
We start getting close to where we think we are going and realize we have made an error in our navigation and actually have another 15 miles to go to get to Orange Creek. We adjust our course around Alligator point and then head up to Orange Creek.
We arrive at our destination and drop the anchor in eight feet of water. We pull down on the anchor at 2300 rpm to make sure it is set. I then put the yoke on the anchor chain and let it take the load. It was a great day of sailing.
Our anchorage around us is crystal clear blue waters. The village of Orange Creek is behind us and a long pink beach runs along our starboard for about a mile. We have a one to two foot roll coming off the sound but is on our nose so we are gently rolling in our anchorage. It is a nice spot to spend the night.