Rum Cakes, Coral Heads and the Bodacious Bahamas!

We are anchored in Highbourne Cay in the northern Exumas. We are experiencing 30 plus knot wind gusts which will continue for the next few days. The cruising life, especially when anchoring is mostly relaxing and affords me time to contemplate.  Recently I was thinking about all the boating friends we have met since starting on our cruising adventures some four years ago. Certainly not everyone but Jill and Don on N47 Slowburn post beautiful photos of the gorgeous PNW.  Shannon and Jeff on N47 Igloo have posted photos of the boat almost buried in snow! Dale and Glenda on N43 Serenity also posted beautiful Serenity almost iced in, both are home ported in Alaska ! Alison, Kevin AND Max on N55 Red Rover are in Costa Rica making their way to Panama, and Hugo and Michelle on N55 Gitana and Linda and Vince on N60 Last Arrow are all in El Salvador also enjoying Central America.  Pat, Alexa, kids and Gillian the Fat Cat on N50 Noeta are hanging in La Cruz, Mexico. Larry and Sue on N46 Beverly S are holding tight in Palm Beach, Florida working a little freezer issue. Karen and Don on N55 Latitude are in Jupiter, Florida, also working on finishing up boat projects. Both Beverly S and Latitude plan to join us in the Bahamas at some point this winter.  And new friends we recently met in Chub Cay, Heidi and Scott on N50 Mi Casa are currently anchored about 500 yards to our stern. All these boating enthusiasts, experiencing very different adventures, all share “the love” for the cruising lifestyle.  Little snippets of information on Instagram, blogs, Facebook as well as text and email allow us to keep in touch and look forward to the day we will “Cross Wakes” and get together again. 

The Bahamas is new territory for the Orenda crew.  The cruising manuals say the islands of the Bahamas is a boaters’ paradise!!  We read a lot about crossing the Gulf Stream which is a 45-mile-wide river in the Florida Straits between Florida and the Bahama Islands.  It flows northward at an average speed of 2.5 knots. The current is one consideration for crossing.  Depending on boat speed, corrections need to be made. For every hour in the Gulf Stream, the boat will be pushed 2.5 nm north.  The second consideration is the weather. The most difficult and dangerous time to cross the Gulf Stream is when the wind is from the north, including the northeast and northwest. When the wind blows from the north, big nasty waves are created making the passage uncomfortable and treacherous.

When we were visiting home in Washington State in January Scott concocted a plan with long time friends Deb and Bob. The plan was they were to make a one-way flight to Florida, and join us on our voyage to the Bahamas. The plan was discussed over lunch and a beer so you can imagine our surprise when they called and told us, ok, one-way flights made!! They arrived on February 7th with the expectation (our expectations also) that shortly after arrival and completing our health visas required to enter the Bahamas we would be on our way! Ya mon!  But the weather was not cooperating and after rescheduling our COVID tests 3 times, we finally untied Orenda on the 18th of February for the 15-hour cruise to Chub Cay in the Berry Islands.  We had checked in with our weather router, Rich, a few times to get his weather expertise for the crossing. The day we began the cruise Rich said it would be “bodacious weather” ! Ya mon! And the weather was great! Because the weather window was short, we left mid afternoon and arrived the following day. Bob and Deb were a great addition to the Orenda crew, it was their first open ocean crossing and an overnight to boot !  I think they were amazed also with the depths of the Great Bahama Bank. It is a very large sea area with depths of 15 to 18 feet deep. They, like ourselves when we started cruising are more familiar with the Columbia River and the deep waters around the San Juan Islands.

The beautiful waters in the Bahamas are aquamarine and turquoise.  Just beautiful, clear and warm. Chub Cay is a delightful village.  Population is minimal, maybe 50 or 60 residents. The main activity and source of income for the resident workers of Chub Cay are support of the resort and marina and sport fishing.  Upon arrival, Scott was whisked away in a golf cart to clear in at Customs and Immigration at the airport, taking with him our passports, cruising permit and health visas.  I believe that’s when we (Deb, Bob and I) began joking about our current lack of identification and wondering what the Bahama prisons are like in the event Scott doesn’t return.  No worries I said, “I’ll bring you rum cake!” Why we all thought that rum cake in prison would be a solution is beyond me now, but the joke became the resolution for most future situations.  We stayed in Chub Cay for five days and enjoyed the beautiful white beaches and the resort infinity edge pool with the swim-up bar at the marina. We walked to Turtle Creek to see the sea turtles when they popped up for air. Unknowingly, the hike to Turtle Creek was maybe 4 miles one way on a gravel road. We were wearing sandals and had no water, aside from the half bottle I brought along. Discussions on the return trip turned to “Survivor,” “Naked and Afraid”, and “You vs Wild.”  We finally got back to the village and stopped at the Nauti Rooster, a hangout for both cruisers and locals for Coronas and Sands, a Bahamian Beer made with the famous spring water of the Bahamas.  The first round went down quick!

From Chub Cay we cruised to New Providence Island to Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas.  After experiencing the village life, we were interested in seeing a Bahama city.  Nassau population is approximately 400 thousand which is 70% of the Bahamian population. It is a very busy city and residents drive on the left-side of the road, very fast and use their horns instead of their brakes! We visited the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island.  The resort is a marina, hotel, casino, aquarium, shopping center, restaurant and bar. The building has high-bridged towers, waterfalls, cupolas, sailfish structures; just generally an amazing, massive site.

Unfortunately, Bob and Deb needed to return home. The marina offered the US airline required COVID test and the following day they flew out of Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau. We were sad to see them go. See you guys soon, sometime!

Scott and I spent the day preparing for our next adventure: gunkholing in the Exuma Cays. The cruise to Allan’s Cay took us over Yellow Bank, a 30-mile stretch of shallow water dotted with coral heads.  Coral heads are black or brown coral growths that can protrude just below the water line.  We had the perfect day to cross Yellow Bank. Few clouds, bright sunshine and Scott timed the crossing so the sun would be high in the sky and we could easily spot and avoid them. I took a position on the bow with my headphones so I could help Scott navigate through the coral patches.  Successfully crossed, we anchored near Allan’s Cay.  The principal attraction of Allan’s Cay are the rock iguanas. As we pulled the tender onto the beach, the iguanas began moving out of the rocks and trees. A little creepy.

Our next stop was Highbourne Cay, just a short cruise south from Allan’s Cay.  We took the tender into the marina and the Dock Master checked our Health Visas. We spent the next couple of afternoons exploring and visited the Exuma Beach Bar, very small and remote and a short tender ride north of our anchorage. We invited the Mi Casa crew, Heidi and Scott to join us the second day. Funny, they didn’t believe us that there was a beach bar so they quickly packed their cooler prior to following us!

Yes, the winds are currently gusting. This morning Scott and I woke to a loud deafening bang! The anchor snubber line broke. After catching our breath and having a cup of coffee, he replaced it with our backup snubber which is a 1-inch line snubber.  We plan to continue gunkholing the Exumas.  Norman’s Cay to the south, served as the headquarters for Carlos Lehder’s drug smuggling operation in the late 70s, early 80s. We plan to dive the plane wreck there, the last remaining evidence of the notorious drug smuggling operation.  From there we will continue south in the Exumas, meet more friends we haven’t met yet and hopefully see some familiar cruisers and family we haven’t seen for a while.

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