Season 3, Chapter 2 Bahamas Cruising
Updated: Jul 5, 2019
I've been a bit remiss in getting the next chapter of Paradigm Shift published, so I decided I will cover more ground with more photos and less words. Some of you will find that a great improvement over the prior chapters. When last I left you, we were in Emerald Bay, on Great Exuma. We were frustrated by weather, overcrowded anchorages and a lack of conch and fish and we had just found Emerald Bay Marina which turned things around. We took a slip for one month which let us come and go when the weather cooperated. This turned out well. When the weather was against us we had a place to hide and when it was good we went exploring. Our first trip from Emerald Bay was to Rudder Cay, north of Great Exuma. We found a nice anchorage and the weather cooperated pretty well. We were finally able to launch the stand up paddle board and do some swimming although the current ran swiftly through the anchorage so you had to be careful when swimming. From Rudder Cay we went south to the northern tip of Long Island. There was a nice, albeit rolly, anchorage and a resort called Cape Santa Maria that was welcoming and had a nice restaurant. We also managed to find a few conch to make conch ceviche and a few lobsters to grill with steaks.
After Long Island, we returned to Emerald Bay so that I could head off to Toronto for a board of directors meeting. In my absence Julia had two visitors to keep her company and upon my return to Georgetown I got some nice pics from the plane window. Before leaving we celebrated Keith and Romy's ninth anniversary. I had brought some special wines onboard for just such an occasion and we broke them out. We also had filet mignon with fois gras and grilled lobster tail. The wines were a vertical (12, 13, 14, 15) of Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon. I've been purchasing futures and accepting deliveries on this wine for six years or so.
After I returned from Toronto we made plans to head off to some of the more remote out islands and unfortunately we would be headed off alone because Keith and Romy needed to return to Florida for a couple of days and then they were hosting Romy's son and his friends onboard Acqua Dolce to celebrate his graduation from medical school. Before we left Keith and Romy presented Julia and I with early birthday presents and we had yet another excuse to drink wine and make a nice meal. We woke early the morning that we were set to depart and we were off and running by 7:00 a.m. We were headed for Conception Island, a deserted island that is designated as a national park. We were about two hours into our six- hour run and I did an engine room check during which a I noticed that the temperature of the fuel pump for the main engine was running considerably hotter than normal. I started thinking about why this could be and couldn't come up with a good reason so we decided since Conception is a deserted island we would be better off heading back to the marina to make a few calls and trouble shoot. Keith and Romy were glad to see us again but they also felt our frustration of having an engine problem. After a couple of calls I was just as baffled as before. I went down to the engine room to take another look around and noticed that the mechanic (Me!) had left two valves shut that are supposed to be open on the fuel manifold. I opened the two valves and voila, everything worked again. We made the trip to Conception one day later and had better weather than we were having the day before...maybe there was a reason for our delayed departure? Once we arrived at Conception we had a nice time and stayed two nights, which turned out to be one more day than we should have. After five weeks or so in the Bahamas we finally got in a beach day. We dragged the chairs, umbrella, cooler, towels, etc. up to the beach in Little V and we had a great time hanging out in the water drinking beer. It was great and long overdue. Later that evening we realized that we had been getting bit while in the water. We both had sea itch and it was pretty bad. Sea itch is the bite from a baby jelly fish. They get in your clothes and sting so we only had bites on the parts covered by bathing suits... Too bad we were not skinny dipping!
Overnight the second night in Conception an unpredicted weather front moved through. It brought 35-40 kt winds and 3 foot waves rolling through our anchorage. We waited for a few hours in the morning to see if the wind would die but it didn't. We finally decided to leave the dinghy in the water since it was too rough to retrieve it and pick up anchor and head to our next stop in Cat Island. Along the way to Cat Island the weather improved and the seas smoothed out. As it turned out the front had caused other trouble. In Staniel Cay a friend on a 68 foot Nordhavn woke up to find two mega yachts that were sharing an anchor (????) had dragged in the storm and were now against his boat and on top of his anchor chain. One of their tenders was up on the beach and the other (34 ft center console) had sunk. We also came to find out that a friend-to-be (we hadn't met them yet) was tied up in Cape Eleuthera and said that they had 3-4 ft waves inside the marina which caused quite a bit of damage that night. We actually got off easy. Cat Island was nice and we were looking forward to probably two stops. After we arrived at the anchorage in Cat the weather forecast changed for the worst. We had expected a full week plus of low winds and limited rain but the forecast changed and we now had about two days to get from Cat Island to a protected anchorage or a marina. We cut our stay in Cat short and headed out the next day to head north to Little San Salvador Island. This island is owned by Holland America and is shared or leased by Celebrity cruises as a day stop for passengers to get to use the beach and go ashore to the little village that has been constructed. We cruised all day in rain but no lightening and virtually no wind, so despite the rain it was quite pleasant and we caught a mahi and some small tunas that made good ceviche.
When we arrived at Little San Salvador there was a cruise ship loading passengers which left about an hour after we arrived and then shortly after that a ferry boat with workers loaded and left the island. We pretty much had the island to ourselves since there were no other boats in the anchorage. Pretty wild.
From Little San Salvador we headed off to Cape Eleuthera Marina. We had visited this place when we used to own our house in Eleuthera. We were looking forward to getting to Eleuthera and we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived that there had been many improvements since our last visit. We also noticed that there was another Nordhavn docked at the marina. This usually means some sort of opportunity for socializing. As it turned out SeaStar (Nord 47) is owned by Ted and Mary. We became fast friends and shared many a drink and quite a bit of time together with Mary and Ted and their 70 lb doberman named Raina. She and Tortilla also became good friends despite their obvious difference in size. Ted and Mary have owned SeaStar for 13 years and have cruised the west coast and crossed through the Panama Canal on their way to Florida. This was their third year cruising the Bahamas so we learned quite a bit from these two veterans. We had planned to stay in Cape Eleuthera for 3 or 4 nights but we were having such a good time we stayed 11 days. While in Cape Eleuthera we went diving and saw a loggerhead turtle, our first. It was enormous - at least 300 pounds. We also rented a car and went back to our old house to see what shape it was now in. Big mistake! It didn't look too good and we just proved you can never go back. While we had the car we took Ted and Mary to see our favorite beach - Lighthouse Point Beach - at the southern tip of Eleuthera. We had a great beach day and as it turns out we were lucky to take it in because Disney has bought the property and is due to start creating a cruise ship passenger destination and a resort. "Our" beautiful beach will never be the same.
On the way back to Cape Eleuthera from Lighthouse Beach Ted and Mary told us about Friendly Bob and his bar, taxi service and his son Jermaine. Jermaine had picked up Mary from the airport when she had returned home for an unexpected visit. Jermaine told Mary about his father's bar, Friendly Bob's. We decided it would be fun to try out the local bar so as fate would have it, we bumped into Jermaine at the marina and set up a date for him to pick us up and take us to Friendly Bob's. Of course, the restaurant across the street from the bar was run by a relative so when we arrived at the bar Jermaine told us to go to the restaurant and place our order. There were four items on the menu - Conch, Shrimp, Fish and Chicken. Mary asked a few questions about the choices - "How is the fish prepared?" - "Fried", "How is the conch prepared?" - "Fried", How is the shrimp prepared?" - "Fried", and of course "How is the chicken prepared?" - you guessed it "Fried". We ordered one of each and went to the bar for a before dinner drink. Friendly Bob's was friendly if not very upscale inside. It took three, high-octane rum and cokes for the dinner to be ready. By that point we were ready to eat and the fried food offering was right on the money. They even let us bring Tortilla and Raina into the restaurant for dinner which I'm sure was not typical. After dinner we went back to Friendly Bob's to have a few more drinks and dance! It was awesome!
We had a great time at Cape Eleuthera and we really enjoyed meeting our new friends Ted, Mary and Raina but they were headed south and we were headed north. We departed a couple days after our adventure to Friendly Bob's and we have been in touch with Ted and Mary several times. From Cape Eleuthera we headed north up the west coast of Eleuthera. The cruising was remarkably easy with fairly deep water and short runs. From Cape Eleuthera we moved up to Pelican Cay and anchored for two days. This was a beautiful anchorage that had been suggested by Ted and Mary and it coincided with a spot marked by our friends Matt and Alex who joined us on the boat for the trip to Bermuda last year. While the water where we anchored was plenty deep, the sand bars near shore showed themselves at low tide and it was beautiful. I also took the opportunity to break out the hooka rig and clean the bottom of the boat. In three years this was the first time I cleaned the hull of VAMOS myself. It turns out that there is a good reason for that. This boat has a huge amount of space below the water line and it is a huge job. I'm not looking forward to doing it again any time soon.
From Pelican Cay we moved to Mutton Fish Point near Glass Window Bridge and Lenny Kravitz's compound towards the northern end of Eleuthera. Next we moved to Spanish Wells to meet our friends Andi and Natasha from Grand Cayman. We anchored off of Meeks Patch right off of another pig beach. I took the dinghy to the ferry stop and picked up Andi and Natasha. The dinghy has never has so much weight in it with three adults, groceries that I pick up on the way to the ferry stop, and their luggage and kite board. It turned out the kite board was not necessary since the wind finally dropped out and the cruising was perfect, but the conditions for the kite board were not good. We stayed on anchor for one more night at Meeks and enjoyed more filet mignon and some lobster I had purchased from a passing fisherman at our last stop. We also had two more bottles of the Chateau Montelena. The next day we ran 52 miles across glass calm waters to Hoffman's Cay in the Berry Islands (where we started two months before). Along the way we snagged another nice bull dolphin and we enjoyed fresh ceviche for a couple of days!
We had a great time while at Hoffman's for two days. We went to the blue hole and swam and jumped off of the cliff. We also went for a great, long dinghy ride and when we came back had a true Sunday Funday.
Next stop, Chub Cay, with a good restaurant, floating piers, electricity and another beach. Andi and Natasha had not bought a return ticket and it proved difficult to get one from Chub Cay so they elected to stay with us for our trip to West End, Grand Bahama. But first, during our stay in Chub we enjoyed the pool and lounged with drinks in hand. It was hot out and the pool felt perfect. We made some new friends, Michele and Chuck, who were also boaters but of a different variety. They have a mega yacht with quite a few full time crew. We all hung out at the pool and they invited us back to the mother ship. It was 200 ft of awesome. People to pick you up and drop you off and people to tie up the tender and hand you a drink and a cool towel when you step on board. Chuck and Michele were very generous with us and we enjoyed the heck out of it. The engine room was three decks below the main deck. It was unbelievable. Every system on board VAMOS but on steroids. On another note, while at Chub Cay, we started playing Gin Rummy. Andi and Natasha play so they taught us. We had a great time and Julia and I now have a long running game going.
The run from Chub to West End was 102 miles and I wanted to arrive in daylight because I had not been into West End before. We departed Chub at 5:00 a.m. and we arrived at West End 13 hours later. About 6 miles from our destination I heard someone call on the VHF radio. It turned out that our friends Ted and Jennie on Southern Star were at West End. They saw our name pop up on AIS and they called to see if we were passing by or coming in. Of course we quickly organized dinner and had a chance to catch up. This was our last night with Andi and Natasha as they were leaving the next day and our friends Ted and Willow were arriving. Andi and I looked for conch in several places and found nothing but more sea itch, but on their way to the airport they asked the taxi driver about getting conch and he showed back up at the boat with 15 fresh conch which I quickly froze so I will have conch for the summer in the Chesapeake Bay! Ted and Willow arrived in the afternoon and we organized dinner at the restaurant. We originally wanted to stay at West End for a night or two but the weather was looking good for our crossing back to the US the next day and then it was forecast to deteriorate so we made plans to leave at midnight to time our arrival 330 miles north at Hilton Head, SC. Ted and Willow decided that they would share our shifts with us throughout the night which really made the dark hours more enjoyable. We left West End and jumped out into the gulf stream and headed north. Within two hours we were in the middle of the stream and we were showing over 10 knots. A couple hours later we were up to 11 and then 12 knots. That is flying for this vessel. We maintained 12 knots for about 10 hours and we quickly ate up the distance. I was hoping for smooth seas and no lightening storms. Our friends Ted and Mary had been struck by lightening the year before and they told us the story which terrified us. Day one was awesome! The seas were smooth and we were making good time. The weather was excellent and no signs of showers. Julia and Willow were going to pull the 9 p.m. to midnight shift on the second night. I went down to get some sleep. When I woke up, I went upstairs to see what was up. The wind was howling and there was lightening everywhere around us. We were surfing down six foot waves and Julia and Willow were gabbing like two old ladies and not bothered by anything around them. I took a quick shower and suggested we move down to the pilot house where it would be much more comfortable. We never ran into the lightening but it was all around us all night. The wind stayed with us pretty much until we arrived into Hilton Head but the ride was fine because the wind was mostly at our backs. We covered 330 nm in 36 hours. That was really good timing for us. We all got cleaned up and after we cleared customs and immigration via the ROAM app we all went for a walk. We had prepared BBQ pulled pork during the transit and we enjoyed that for dinner along with a couple of bottles of Zinfandel. All was right in the world. Ted and Willow departed the next day to get back to work and Julia and I rented a car and got the family groomed. We found a barber, a salon and a dog groomer within 1 mile of each other. A couple of hours later we were back to our normal selves - which is not saying much. We stayed in Hilton Head for about a week and enjoyed being back in the land of instant gratification.
Next Up was another 24 hour run from Hilton Head to South Port, North Carolina. We picked a pretty good day for running. It was breezy and there was a fair chop but the weather was good and no storms overnight. Southport is at the head of the Cape Fear River which runs north up to Wilmington, NC. This makes it a busy shipping channel.
We are slowly making our way to the Chesapeake Bay where we plan to spend the summer. We have plans to be in Washington, D.C. for the last two weeks of July, and Baltimore's Inner Harbor for the last two weeks of August. Let us know if anyone plans to be in those areas.