Little Grand Cay
December 17, 2021: Prism spent almost 3 weeks cruising the Abacos. After our night spent in the middle of the Abaco Sound, we made our way to Little Grand Cay to check-in. The word on the street was that we could check-in at Rosie’s Place, which is a little marina located on the northeast side of the Cay. The 3 of us launched Penta and made our way through Funny Cut while keeping an eye out for reefs and coral heads. With a little luck and help from Navionics, we found the dock we were looking for. A man sitting under a Gazebo with the sign “ Rosie’s Bar” walked up to asks what we needed. When we said we were looking to check-in, the man-made a face and said “oh, hold on.” For a moment we thought we were screwed and that we could not check in here, but the man came back and told us, “ You need to walk up the street towards that radio tower and go into the pink and white building. Sherice is your girl, we will let her know you are coming”.
The three of us made our way up the road and found the cute little administration building. There was not a soul in sight and all the doors were locked, but there was a sign on the door with a number to call. Sadly none of us had a phone, so calling would not work for us. We waited out and hoped that the man at the dock did in fact call the woman who could check us in. After about 20 minutes, Sherice came walking up the road with all her official paperwork in tow. She was a lovely woman who said she is on call 24/7. It does not matter what day or time it is, she will check you in. Unless you come in by plane, then you need to give her a 24-hour notice, but for us simple broke sailors, we could check-in, or out for that matter whenever.
The usage of the click2clear site made the check-in process very easy, and we were all set within 20 minutes of getting set up inside. EASY! Prism and her crew are now good to cruise the Bahamas for the next 3 months.
After we were all checked in, we took Sheriece’s advice and found a place to have a lunch of fresh fried fish. We all sat down on a newly built/ finished deck to have our first full meal out in the Bahamas. We were happy to find out that the 3 full meals were only $41, note that there were no drinks involved. We all went back to Prism fat, happy, and ready to explore.
The waters under the boat were kinda clear, nothing like we saw during our bank crossing, but Kailey and I could not help but dawn our gear and go for a snorkel. There was nothing to see under the boat rather than some eelgrass and some sea biscuits. With the lack of scenery, Kailey and I loaded up into Penta and headed towards the shore in hopes of finding a little more sea life. Sadly the only thing we found was loads of beer bottles, more grass, and a complete lack of visibility. After only 10 minutes or so, we made our way back to the boat where Jon was still working on the water maker. He told us to keep ourselves busy by cleaning Prism’s bottom. Which we did until Jon was clear of the cockpit.
There was not much to see or do in this little spot, so even though there was no favorable wind, we decided to move on the next day.
Fox Town/ Hawksbill Cay
December 18, 2021: This was just a stop-over point for the night. We needed to make good easting as there was some weather coming and we needed to hide. In the northern Abacos, there are not many places to hide from the west wind. In standard cruising fashion, we needed to head east and that is where the wind was coming from. So we motored to this little cay and anchored for the night in the lee of a rock reef. I do not think we missed much here ashore, but the reef might have been a good place to snorkel, now we will never know.
December 19, 2021: Once again another stop-over point, but we had made good time to this anchorage that was only about 25nm east and south from Hawksbill Cay. We were able to sail at least somewhat of the way. It brought joy to us all that this cay is located in a marine park and there was a lot to see right under the boat. Once we were anchored, the three of us jumped in, we checked to see how the anchor set ( perfectly as the Ultra has every time) then were welcomed by 3 large spotted eagle rays. MARINE LIFE!! BAHAMAS!! Jon had malfunctions with his mask due to facial hair and had to turn back, while Kailey and I went on and on and on. There were a few barges wrecked on the shoreline which made for great snorkeling. We saw the first lionfish, loads of baby small fish, some turtles, and more reef fish. We were in the water till I started to notice Kailey was getting cold and we only had a little bit more daylight left.
The next morning we were awoken by a squall with loads of rain right before dawn. All 3 of us were up quickly to close all the open portlights and hatches. Our first Bohemian squall! Do not worry, Prism did not move an inch, but as soon as the squall was over we all started to feel a bit itchy. We had opened the portlights and hatches again after the rain stopped and this was a bad mistake. It was now around 6:30 am, which is about the time we were all going to wakeup anyways to make our way to the next anchorage at high tide. The boat was still dark inside as we prepped the boat to move. It was not until one of us turned on a light that we noticed the inside of Prism was alive with little flying bugs.
NO-SEE-UMS! AHHHHH! We quickly closed up the boat again, but it was too late. Our bare legs and ankles were open to the onslaught from these little biting fuckers. Kailey was smart and put on pants, while I applied some bug spray and went into cleaning mode to try and suck up/ kill any of the biting bugs. Jon could see it was a losing battle and we needed to get the hell out of that anchorage. Outside was just a large black moving cloud of no-see-ums. Lucky for him, he does not react as I do, or to find out, as Kailey does.
As soon as dawn lit the very far-off horizon, Jon weighed anchor and started to move us out of the danger zone. The little fuckers that had sought shelter and a meal aboard were now subject to our killing. They all got their last meals though, and I think we girls paid for it the most. The next days were pure hell as Kailey and I battled our will to itch and yet not itch. Our nights were filled with little bits of sleep, interrupted by our subconscious bodies scratching the tiny welts. It was hell I tell you, HELL!
Our next anchorage, which we hoped would be our shelter from the upcoming west winds was the little inner harbor at Green Turtle Cay. Before hurricane Dorian, this was a cruisers hot spot, known for the famous “ Dollar Bar”. As we followed the marked channel into the harbor we could see the bottom in very clear water and had loads of eagle rays swimming under the boat. This was exciting as we knew we were going to be stuck here for a few days and the clear water would be the perfect thing to keep us busy and occupied.
The Harbor is filled with mooring balls and the bottom, come to find out, is littered with debris from the hurricane that wreaked havoc here in 2019. We circled around looking for a spot that gave us enough swing room from the moorings and was also clear of shit on the bottom. This perfect spot did not appear and the little refregué harbor was no longer all we had hoped it to be. Lucky for us, it was still only 8 in the morning. With a quick glance of the chart, we could see that just a little further down was a spot that would offer us the west protection we were looking for.
Now to get to this next anchorage, we needed to head out of the protected sound through a reef cut called Whales Cay Cut. This is a large cut, and we could not have asked for a better weather window to go through and then back in through Loggerhand Inlet. The squall from the morning took all the wind with it, leaving us very clear skies and almost no seas. We were all very excited as we motored over the very clear and shallow sand that lead us to our anchorage. Only to be shortly disappointed as we moved in closer to shore to find the visibility kept dropping. Once again we were anchored in nothing but boring eelgrass. Lucky the holding was good, AND we were about to join back up with FIN.
December 20, 2021: We set the hook and laid out more chain than was needed, but we had the room and a blow was coming for the next few days, so why not. Jon and Kailey put the sail rig on Penta and went for a dinghy sail as I lounged in the new bean bag on the foredeck. I have been trying to finish the first book in the G.O.T series as I really wanted to start the book Dune. The GOT book seemed to go on FOREVER! They made it back to the boat and then Kailey took Penta out on her own. Jon and I were very impressed by how quickly she got the hang of it as we watched her tack up and back down the hook that was our anchorage.
Out in the distance, we could see a familiar shape forming on the horizon, FIN! Our buddy boat did a quick drive-by as we hooted and hollered “BAHAMAS!!!!” to each other. It seems like it had been forever in the planning stage that we would be in an anchorage together with clear warm waters. Sadly, this was not that clear of water, but that did not stop us from getting in and checking it out. I swam over to FIN to see how their Mantus anchor set in comparison to our Ultra and got stung by a jellyfish! It must have just been a tentacle as I did not see anything, but the thing wrapped itself around my leg and stung me badly. I quickly swam away and yelled up to Jon to get the vinegar. After a couple of rinses it started to feel better, but still left a good welt that wrapped around my right knee and up the thigh. Ouch.
The next few days we were all cooped up inside our boats as we waited out the strong winds and rain. Once the weather settled down we made our way south to Marsh Harbor.
December 23, 2021: I had always heard of Marsh Harbor when people talked about the Abacos. It seemed like it was going to be the first “cruisers hub” that we would be around. We were a bit worried that it might be too busy to find a good anchorage spot, as FIN said it was tight in there when they were here last in 2019. The entrance was easy enough and we were shocked to find the inner harbor almost barren, besides a few wrecks and a couple of charter cats waiting for their next crew. Marsh Harbor is a larger settlement on Great Abaco, so I was looking forward to a grocery shopping day. I didn’t need much, but would like to top up on some fresh stuff, and maybe a few things for Christmas dinner.
The walk to the store was easy, and we were blown away from the damage that was still visible from Dorian. I can not even begin to imagine what it was like for the people who were here during that hurricane. The store was massive, and everyone else on the island had the same idea to stock up before Christmas, it was packed in there!
We headed back to the boats and made a plan of where we wanted to spend the next few days with the settled weather for the holiday. In the morning we would head over to the Cays on the east side in search of some clear waters and healthy reefs.
December 24, 2021: We motored (yes, still using the old iron sail to get places) over the easy 5nm to Fowl Cay. On the chart, it did not look deep enough, but the reef around the corner was compelling enough for us to eek our bow into the clear blue water and hope to find deep enough water to anchor. To our surprise, we found LOADS of water, and is one of the most perfect anchorages we have ever been in…with settled weather of course. We spent the next few days playing in the clear water hunting for the best coral heads and larger reef life. This part was in a marine park so there was no hunting for dinner. We Had a very simple and peaceful Christmas with us and FIN, and even had a big steak dinner! We finished the night with a few rounds of Mexican train, which of course Derek won.
As much as we wanted to stay in this picture-perfect anchorage, a southwest wind filled in and put us on a lee shore. The next morning the wind switched to the ENE which was perfect to push us south. We needed to get over a shallow section near Hope town. We pushed on and anchored in the lee of Lenard Cay, while FIN went into Hope town to visit some family friends who were here bareboating for vacation.
December 26, 2021: The sail down to Lyanard Cay was perfect, we even had the spinnaker up for a bit of it. The wind even seems to clock with us as we wound our way through the cuts and cays of the southern Abacos. There were a few spots we wanted to stop and anchor, but the swell would not allow for much sleep, so we kept on till we found the right spot. We anchored just in the lee on the northern tip of Lynyard cay. The next day we took Punta the 2 miles up to Sand Cay to snorkel the reef there. There were sections of it that had been hit hard by storms in the past, but for the most part, the reef seemed full of life. We saw loads of fish, had eagle rays swim with us for a while, a few turtles, and even saw a remora on a parrotfish!
Fin caught up with us a day later and brought their friends with them who were bareboating 2 cats. They invited us over for dinner, which turned into a huge party that went well into the wee hours of the night. The next morning we were all moving a bit slow, but that did not stop Kailey and me from an early morning snorkel. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and reading. Kailey and I are still working on the Dune series, well into book 2 which we are not as excited about.
The following day we had all recovered enough to take a dinghy trip back out to Sand Cay to get another round of snorkeling in.
December 30, 2021: We anchored just outside of little harbor with the plan to check out a blue hole. Our anchorage was right in-between the town and the hole, and by the time we set our hook we only had time to check out one of them. FIN and Prism opted to check out the town, as the blue hole had quite a bit of logistics to get to. The town is located in a perfect enclosed bay (little harbor, get it?) and it finally felt like we were in the Bahamas. The boats, little docks, and shops right on the water, it was beautiful. It seemed like this area did not get hit as hard by Dorian as the rest of the island did. We walked around, following a road to see if we could find an overlooking view, but my knee started to act up and I did not want to push it. Jon and Kailey kept going on the road in hopes of finding some view, while Derek, Christina, and I walked back to Petes to have a beer and a hamburger. Petes had a great vibe and their art gallery was beautiful if you are into $40k bronze sculptures. Clearly, the people who visit here live in a completely different world than us. Once Jon and Kailey made it back to the beach, without finding any good views, we all headed back to the boats to hang out and talk about our passage the next morning.
2022 Happy New Year!!
December 31, 2021: We weighed anchor around 4:30 in the morning, even though we had discussed leaving around 5:45am the night before. Jon gets excited then antsy when we are going somewhere new. So, there we were, going through a reef cut, which we had never been through before, in the dark. To say that I was thrilled would be a lie. Jon’s face as we made it through the reef with no issues was smug as ever and Kailey and I took in the stars above us that we are normally asleep to see. We were excited to spot, Leo, Virgo, Hydra, Gemini, the crown one, a dog one, and a crow one. I know they have names, but I am drawing a blank, I however was super excited to see the first few stars of Scorpio come up above the horizon before the sun took them all away. Our destination, Eleuthera Island, was about 50nm south. We had hoped that some wind would show up on the forecast, but it never did and it looked like we would be stuck in the Abacos for another week if we did not move. With the lack of wind, we motored south with FIN right behind us. The Atlantic was dead flat, not a cat paw or zephyr insight. Kailey and I kept our noses into our Kindles as we were deep into the world of DUNE. Every day we would give a play-by-play to Jon and would discuss and compare the book to the new movie. As we approached the Island, it was quite exhilarating watching the depths of the sea go from thousands into the teens. There were so many different blues that it was hard to catalog each one. AND BOY WAS IT CRYSTAL CLEAR! We could easily still see the bottom while we were in 80+ feet.
We made it to this little island right in front of Spanish Town around 3pm. Fin caught a Mahi during their motor and Prism has yet to catch shit. My uncle would say “that’s why it is called fishing, not catching.” They invited us over to share their bounty with us as we aimed to hang out to bring in the new year together. We all make it till about cruisers mid-night, which is 9pm. We clinked our drinks, yelled HNY, and then went to bed.
The next few days were a bit lazy and we did not do much exploring. There was not much to see under the boats and Meeks Patch is a small island, which does have a beautiful beach and even a place to visit the pigs if you want to pay $10/person to see them. One morning we went to shore to do some birding. When Christina caught up with Kailey and me, she delivered us some breakfast burritos. As if on cue a HUGE pig came around the corner and chased us all the way to the water’s edge and then some snorting and squealing at us. I’m not going to lie, I was damn right afraid of that pig, and if I didn’t wolf down my breakfast I think it would have trampled me down. And when I say huge, I mean the pig was as large as Christina, terrifying. Once the pig realized we were not going to share and the food was gone, she went on about her morning while the 3 of us made our way back inland. We all came up short when we noticed the little baby piglets. Now those things are CUTE, momma, not too much. We took a few minutes to look at the little cuties till a boat showed up with a man who we were sure would charge us for looking at the pigs. So we quickly and quietly made our way back to the other side of the island where Jon and Derek were going a beach clean-up. Meeks Patch was littered with trash.
Though there was not much to see in the water, it was nice soft sand which was perfect for us to do some dive skills and refreshers. After we were done with the skills, we went over to FIN to give her hull a scrub, she was dirty!
January 3, 2021: It was a very quick motor to the anchorage in front of Spanish Town, we set our hooks and then went into the get the lay of the land. We found where the stores were, where to buy and how much diesel was, and then headed to Budda’s Bar to have some food, drinks and use their Wifi. Our nights in the anchorage as we waited for the right weather to head further south was filled with card games and alternating dinner shifts. Between Christina and I, we were all eating like kings.
Our last day in Spanish wells was very busy. Us girls went to shore to do some provisioning, while the boys took the big boats to the fuel dock to top off. Once the boats were full of food and diesel, we all piled into PITA (Fin’s aptly named dinghy, its a long story) and set off to find the blue hole. We needed to get to the other side of the cut and tie up to a little “dinghy dock” and then walk a while till we find the trailhead. When we came up to the dock it was surrounded by a lot of young local boys all playing in the water. They helped us tie off and told us that this dock was in fact the “dingy dock/ public dock” When we started to make our way up to the main road a young woman asked us where we were going. When we told her we were looking for the blue hole, she told us that it was way too far away to walk there. She thought we would be better off checking out a local beach that was a little closer. We thought about what she said, thanked her, and started on our way. When we got to the road she told us to turn on to get to the beach, we all looked at the map again and came to the conclusion that the blue hold is not THAT far of a walk and continued on. The young woman yelled at us from down the road that we were missing our turn, and we tried to explain that we were going for the blue hole still. When she eventually got picked up for her ride to work, she stopped along the road one last time to pretty much tell us that we were crazy and it was a long walk.
It was not that long of a walk, maybe 30/ 45min, and boy was it worth it! When we found the road that lead the short distance to the hole we were all very excited and not the only ones there. Lined up were a group of friends who are all avid cave divers. They were going on a trip around the Bahamas searching and exploring all the blue holes. They had seen some pretty cool stuff and even discovered some caves that had not been documented before. This blue hole, called Sapphire Blue Hole does not have a cave that leads deep underground (well not that the divers could find) but it did offer a spectacular free fall into the clear cool waters. Someone had built a little wood platform that you can use to jump off of into the water, about 20ft down. Kailey went first, as we knew if anyone could get out/ climb out, it would be her. There were lines with knots tied in them to help heave yourself up and out of the hold to get back to ground level. Once we were all cool and took in as much as we could we started to head back to the dinghy. The walk back seemed to go by much faster, as it always does and I even found a huge squash growing on the side of the road. Yes, I did take it home with me and we ate squash soup for days because of it. Delicious.
Current Cut and Goulding Cay
January 7, 2022: With a name like Current Cut, we did our best to time the tides to make our transit as smooth as possible. We brought up the anchor outside of Spanish Wells and made the 8nm journey south, sadly under power, and got there about an hour and a half before high tide. We had about 2.5 knots of current going with us through the narrow cut which made for a quick and easy passage. It seemed like squalls were just forming and moving all around us, but we did not get hit with any rain or wind. Once we were through the cut we made our way toward the other side of the sound and anchored in the lee of the highest point on Eleuthera in Goulding Cay. The rest of the afternoon was spent floating in the warm clear waters drinking beer and enjoying laughs with friends. We were just stopping here for the night as we still needed to make our way south and find protection for the upcoming wind event.
Rock Sound Harbor
January 8, 2022: We had a bitchin’ sail down to Rock Sound. When we left Goulding Cay we were looking forward to a beam reach or even a reaching sail with 15knts gusting low 20’s ( wind on the beam or just aft of the beam for those who don’t know) This is perfect wind and angle for Prism, so we set up the rig with a full main and the 100% jib. Also, as to refresh our sailing skills we are continuing to sail off the hook. ( NO MORE DIESEL!) As the morning progressed the wind filled in and started to be more forward of the beam. The damn weather forecast, they know nothing! We put in a reef, took the jib down, and raised the Yankee and the staysail. Soon we were sailing along keeping our speeds in the 5.5 to 6.2 knots range. Not bad, but not as good at the 8 knots Fin was doing. HOWEVER, Fin did walk away from us in the beginning, we did catch up a bit later and were only about 30 minutes behind them once we dropped the hook. We skipped over most of Eleuthera as some weather was forecasted to come in and we needed to find protection from all directions. Lucky for us, Rock Sound is a huge enclosed bay with loads of room and protection. The water is a beautiful glacier blue, but kind of murky which is a bummer as we are here for a few days waiting out the weather. The little town has some fun things to offer though.
Fin and Prism made our way into town on PITA ( Fin’s dinghy) to go check out the caves. It was a short walk along the road that runs on the water’s edge. Kailey and I were in complete birder mode, looking and identifying as many of the birds as we could. The walk to the caves was a short one, before we knew it we were at the short trailhead that has a sign that says “ Boiling Hole, Enjoy” but nothing about the caves. This blue hole was not as clear or inviting as the Saphire Hole we saw in Spanish Wells, and it was not as hot, so the urge to jump in was not as high. We continued on for another few minutes and saw the sign leading to the caves. Derek and Christina had been here before a few years ago and they remembered the caves being quite cool. Just remember to keep your mouth shut when you look up.
For Jon and me these caves were very reminiscent of the caves on Cayman Brac. The stairs leading down to the base, the vines and trees cascading down into the deep, and the chirps and flutters from the bats, really brought us back. We walked through every nook and cranny the paths allowed us to climb or crawl through. Towards the end, we climbed our way out of the last section and found our heads right next to a huge hive of honey bees. Luckily we could keep a safe distance and they did not seem to be bothered by us walking around their exposed honeycombs.
After we were done with the caves we walked through town to see what it had to offer. It seemed to be very quiet and shut down. Later a local stopped on the side of the road to warn us that this little town is currently going through a Covid outbreak and that we should be very careful. It is because of this, we think most of the stores and restaurants are closed. During our walk, we picked up a few furry friends who kept us company for the rest of our trip into town.
Once back at the boats, Jon helped Derek change the lower-end gear oil and add a fin thing to their outboard. All the while Kailey and I worked on our cribbage skills. The evening ended with a fancy dinner made and plated beautifully by Christina.
January 15, 2022: Still in Rock Sound Harbor.
We had moved to the other side of the harbor looking for more shelter from the west winds we were about to be clobbered by. Lucky for us, they did not hit with as much force as we thought, but it was still a good thing we moved. SV Star Gazer finally caught up with us! They crossed over from FL the day after FIN, but we kept moving further south before they could catch up. We met STAR GAZER via the Litzenburgers back in Oriental, and have been looking forward to cruising with them. We had a few more days till the weather settled down, so with the idea from Star Gazer we all rented a car and set out to explore more of Eleuthera Island. All 7 of us piled into a small Nissan minivan and made our way north.
The first stop was the glass window which is a man-made bridge but used to be an arch. The island is very narrow here and allows a great view to see the contrast of colors between the Bahamas bank and the Atlantic Ocean. The next stop was the Queen’s bath, but first, we had to stop to check out the smallest blow hole ever! It was cute and made me laugh quite a bit.
We found the turn-off for the Queen’s Baths and followed the shore path out to the rocky shore. We walked around a while and were kind of let down, thinking that there was not much of a “bath” here. It was not long till we realized that Kailey went missing. We sent out a search party and finally, she came into view, climbing her way back up from the cliffs by the water. She had found the true queen’s baths. We all made out way down and around, timing the swells and into the carved-out cave that the ocean had created. Kailey, Beth, Cal, and I were the first ones into the baths, despite their cooler temperatures. I mean how often can you say you got to swim in a queen’s bath?
The next stop is still the highlight of our trip on Eleuthera, the caves at Hatchet Bay. None of us were ready for what we walked into. We even managed to get Beth to go down into the depths despite her fear of bats and dark places. When we first walked into the caves, the first set of stairs took us into a room with a large wasp nest guarding the entrance. This first part of the cave is all we thought there was to this place, oh how we were so wrong. At the back end of the cave, some steps lead down about 40+ feet to another hole. This hole had a ladder that took us another 10+ feet down. After a few feet of crawling, we came to a cavernous opening with stalagmite and stalactites.
All 7 of us were just in aw, as this was nothing that we were prepared for. The cave kept going on for about a mile, with markings and names dating as far back as the late 1800s. It is a good thing everyone brought a headlamp/ flashlight as there was only one string to lead you to and from the entrance, which at some points had been broken and attempted to be reattached. Without a light, I am sure this would have been a total nightmare. We all made out way to the end, which lead to yet another hole in the ground. This time with a rope ladder leading down to waist-deep water and more cave-like rooms to explore. All of us were having the time of our lives exploring the nooks and crannies and all got a good laugh when Kailey made her way back to us covered from head to toe in red clay. She had found a path that required crawling on your belly that lead from one opening to another. It was by far one of the coolest land activities we have done so far. We all piled back into the car covered in red clay in search of some food. We found a spot on the side of the road called Mel’s Snacks, which had the best prices for the food we had seen so far, a hamburger was only $6!!! Looking at the time, we took our food to go and started back towards Rock Sound.
There was still one more stop that Beth and Cal wanted to see, the pink sand beach at the end of the island. Yet it was another hour past Rock Sound. Fin, Jon, and I opted out of that last stop as we knew the dinghy ride back out to the boats was going to be long and wet as we needed to beet into 20knts of wind for over a mile. Kailey went with Star Gazer and they made it to the beach just as the sun was going down. Our dinghy ride back to the boats was definitely a wet one, and I don’t think I have laughed that hard in a long time. Christina and I were in the front of the dinghy taking 90% of the green water coming over the bow. We were drenched head to toe and were constantly having to wipe our faces clear of the salt wanted pouring into our eyes. We both had shit-eating grins on our faces the whole time.
January 18, 2022: Leaving Rock Sound on Eleuthera Island we set our sails in hope for a blissful beam reach towards the northern Exuma’s, but like always we found ourselves on a close reach with full canvas up beating into 15 knots. At least we know we are going the right way and we are not using any diesel. We made excellent time and had perfect light to make it through the cut that lead us to our anchorage for the night. Though as we approached, Jon was not thrilled about the spot and swore that it was going to be too rolly. I basically told him to man up and that it would be fine and that we did not have enough time to sail down to the next anchorage before the sun went down. I was, as always, right, and the anchorage was perfect for the night. So much so that it filled in so fast that soon we were anchored with about 20 other boats.
Skipjack Point @ Normans Cay
January 19, 2022: We left Highborne Cay pretty early as we all headed down towards Normans Cay. The anchorage we were hoping to get to seemed it was only open through a northern cut, which would mean we would have to backtrack to get back out of it. Jon was not thrilled with this option, but FIN’s charts showed a way in through the southern end, so we took a chance to see if our charts were wrong. We slowly make our way forward into the anchorage our charts telling us we should be in 2 feet of water, yet we’re still in 15 feet. We were all excited to find that our charts were wrong and this anchorage was huge, but it was a bit exposed for the wind that was due in a few days. FIN, Star Gazer, Prism, and now MV Vagabond ( friends of Star Gazer) all figured we would be fine, and if the anchorage got too rough we could spend the days on the beach having a good time. The next morning Jon woke with a different plan. He did not like the idea of staying in this anchorage for the west wind that was coming, so we upped anchor and headed the 30+ miles down avoiding the Exuma’s Land and Sea park leaving our friends behind for the next few days. In this case Jon was right to want to move out.
January 20, 2022: Our sail down was easy going and we dropped the hook in a little spot at the West End of the Decca Line. This used to be a British Decca station which was used to send signals for navigation before GPS was a thing. We had the little cove to ourselves and even read that we could tie up to the old pier, but stories of rats and bugs kept us anchored in deep water. The water was crystal clear under the boat with lots of Little Rock islands to snorkel around. We took the time to go ashore and explore the little cay as well. We were welcomed by goats who wanted nothing to do with us, loads of Curley Tailed Lizards and birds beyond belief. The little trails winded through the thick brush and took us to the other side which was lined by a huge shallow bay. We walked the shore for a while and I got some pictures of a very photogenic Redish Heron. We were eventually joined in the anchorage by a few other boats, one of which came by to let us know that they had met our friends on MV ROAM back in Deltaville and were told to keep an eye out for us. So we headed over to SV Panda to get to know Grace and Oliver. They were very sweet, and before they knew it, we swept them up into our band of cruising boats, now 5 boats strong.
Top of the Majors (Staniel Cay)
January 23, 2022: What a ride it was to get into this anchorage. We thought we timed the tides right, but as we were approaching the cuts between the little cay’s the current was ripping and pulling Prism in many different directions. At one point Jon got disoriented and almost took us through the wrong cut. Luckily we had all hands and eyes on deck and we were able to correct our course before we got into any danger. As we rounded a little cay our anchorage opened up. There were no other boats in here and we thought everyone was crazy to pass this spot just to anchor closer to the yacht club bar. We set our hook in crystal clear water and waited for our friends to arrive, yep all of them: Fin, Star Gazer, Vagabond, and now Panda.
We all took to this anchorage pretty well and set off to find good snorkeling right away. Sadly it seemed like the reef guarding the entrance was quite boring. So Hans aboard MV Vagabond threw out an idea/ option that all 9 of us could not turn down. Vagabond is a 43’ Leopard power cat that can do over 20knts in turbo mode, so Hans offered to take us all out for a diving expedition. All of us besides Panda are scuba divers, so we were all very excited for this chance to head into the Land and Sea Park to do a wall/ cut dive. The next day Hans was boarded by 9 people with full dive and snorkel gear. He navigated us out of the cut and out into the open ocean for the 10 mile trip up to Conch Cut. We set the hook in some sand and dove the reef on the cut just off of Cambridge Cay. We broke off into dive buddies and groups and were in the water at high slack tide in hopes of timing the current just right. Oliver and Grace took the dinghy over to a nearby spot to do some snorkeling and also keep an eye on our dive floats as we made our way through the cut. They were our surface support should the current pick up and start to carry us away. The scuba dive was beautiful and it felt great to shake off the cobwebs from our gear. I could tell I was a bit rusty and it took me a little to find my groove underwater once again. The water was clear and filled with life, we only saw one sleeping nurse shark, but the pillar coral was breathtaking. When we were all back on the boat, we had some snacks and drinks before we took the scenic route back to our anchorage, taking in the views that our deep draft monohulls could never venture through.
At some point in our week stay at the top of the majors, Hans convinced us all to go to the Yacht Club. What was going to be a sunset cruise aboard Panda ( as they needed to check the prop adjustments made that day) turned into a night filled with drinking, pool playing, a very large batch of mac and cheese followed by skinny dipping. And if that does not conclude a proper night of cruising, then I don’t know what does.
We had such a great time diving, and we were all still stuck in the anchorage, once again waiting on the weather to keep moving south. Hans offered to take us out diving again. This time Star Gazer did not get to join us and Beth had to work, but the rest of us loaded up once again and headed even further into the park this time. We found a mooring at the Jeep Reef and we were all in the water at slack tide. The visibility was not as good as our last dive, but it was full of life and we even found the old jeep that is now part of the reef. Though Jon swears it is NOT a jeep. We are all still waiting for that magical dive where we are surrounded by reef sharks and escorted by huge manta rays, but I don’t think it is going to happen.
Finally, a weather window to move south came around, yet it was only for a day. We were all heading towards Georgetown to seek shelter from the strong east wind that was coming, to top up on food and fuel, and get in some good ol’ cruising community vibes in. Our exit out of Big Rock Cut was quite dramatic. We thought we were going to hit it at slack tide, as the tide table said, but when we got to the cut at 6:45 in the morning the tide was still ripping causing some fun steep waves that blocked our exit out to deep water. I was not too sure about it, and FIN turned around after seeing Prism broach a bit when we made our turn a little too early. We took a big wave on our broadside which sent saltwater crashing through the cockpit sweeping everything to the STBD side, including the basket of eggs that was tucked up on the port side. It was a real scramble…….HA get it!! Yup eggs went flying and the next thing I knew I was cleaning up egg yokes and whites that were making their way under the stairs towards the warming engine. It was a bit of a rocky ride down to Georgetown and I was not looking forward to cleaning the cooked eggs out of the felt that lines the bottom of our stairs. Yuck.
January 30, 2022: WOW, there are a lot of boats here. We snaked our way through the reefs and shallows into the inner harbor and were welcomed by hundreds of boats at anchor. We were planning on anchoring close to town so that the provisioning run the next day would be a shorter dinghy ride. However, the depth in front of the town was shallower than charted. Because of this, we ended up anchoring on the other side right in front of Chat n’ Chill Beach. The anchorage was so full, as all the other boats had the same idea as us to hang from the upcoming strong east winds. We did not plan on staying in Georgetown as long as we did, but the social scene sucked us in. It has been so long since we had been able to meet so many new people and have a social life that was almost similar to pre-COVID times.
FIN took a short window to sail to Long Island the day after we got there, so we missed them while we were hanging on the beach. Vagabond, Panda, and Star Gazer hunkered down in the anchorage with us and we spent every afternoon playing volleyball at the beach. None of us, well besides Cal and Hans were ready to learn how much we all LOVED this game. Soon we were all addicted and waiting to get in at every game. There was a steep learning curve and on that first day, I could not get a serve over the net for the life of me. It was quite frustrating. By day 3, we all were getting the hang of it. One morning we played doubles, Jon and Kailey VS Hans and myself. Hans played in college and went on to coach college as well, so he was giving us great tips to improve our game. By the end of the doubles game, I’d say that the 4 of us could actually volley and play a pretty good game.
We were stoked to learn that there would be a Pig Roast on the weekend, $25/plate. We decided to stay and check that out. To say it was a letdown, would be an understatement. First off, it was not even a pig roast! It was just pork cooked maybe in an oven or something, with some bbq served buffet style. Such a letdown. When someone went by us with the standard plate of ribs, we all kicked ourselves for not just ordering that. Panda and Stargazer took off a few days before us, as we said our sad goodbyes and were not sure if we would see them again.
We got to meet so many great new people! Jon and I were looking forward to meeting the couple from Monday Never, who was making YouTube videos back when we were. Will and Cat have since sold their first boat, bought a new one, and had a beautiful baby girl, Maddy. They were such a nice couple and we wish we could have got in a little bit more time with them, but volleyball kept us busy. We also made fast friends with SV Alchemy, Dru, and Julie, who oddly enough had a very similar sailing experience to us when we had TARA back in 2012. They took their 27’ foot sailboat and made it to Costa Rica before they realized they wanted a bigger boat. The similarities made us all laugh and we found ourselves hanging out and playing more and more volleyball together. There are so many more people we met it is hard to keep track, oh, another couple who we played a lot with aboard SV Paloma (best drink ever), Jamie and Lindsey had us over for a delicious pizza night. As cruising goes, you make fast friends which makes it hard when you sail away. We hope to share anchorages with everyone in the future.
February 8, 2022: I thought we were going to leave Georgetown around dawn, but Jon drank too much on EOS and went to bed with the thought that we would sleep in a little and just sail to Long Island. We prepped the boat and had the anchor up a little later than we planned, but we were up and out around 10:20am. The cut that leads out of southern Elizabeth Harbor was very easy to get through and we had a wonderful sail up towards Long Island. We made such great time that we were at our anchorage by 1pm, and to our surprise off our STBD side was SV Star Gazer! They hailed us and told us they were planning on heading to the same spot we were! As we got closer they hailed us once again and just said “ never mind we are making a run for Conception”. Jon Kailey and I looked at the chart, and the wind angle, Conception is only 15nm more to our east…. If we motor sail we could point high enough to make it before sundown! We hailed them back and said “ US TOO!!” The motor sail was easy enough and we had enough wind to make good time. When we reached Conception the whole gang was there too; Panda, FIN, Vagabond, and even SV Surprise! ( We met Eric and Hannah back in NC through our very popular friends the Litzenberger’s!) Once our hooks were set, Surprise invited everyone over for drinks and some fresh fish appetizers that FIN had caught on the way over. Prism has still yet to catch shit!
Conception Island is beautiful and we had perfect weather to explore it. Once again Hans offered to take us all out diving as the wall dive is a little far for a dinghy scuba expedition. This time 2 more additional boats joined us, Eric and Hannah from Surprise and Rob and Andrea from Ocean Life. Jon’s ears were bothering him, so he sadly but smartly sat this one out. The scuba dive was beautiful but was still lacking in sharks. People promised me sharks in the Bahamas, and so far it has been such a letdown in the shark department. The next day we walked over to the other side of the island to snorkel the windward reef, I’m sure 30 years ago this reef would have been the best I had ever seen, however, now it is mostly dead and dying. It was covered in thick algae which muted all the once vibrant colors, there were not that many reef fish around either. To lift our spirits we swam back to the beach and built a huge sandcastle that everyone joined in to build before the tide could wipe it out.
February 12, 2022: Well, we hoped that this sail was going to be good and easy, but the swell was much larger than any of us thought. On our last night at Conception, we all had a goodbye drink aboard MV Vagabond as our band was splitting up, Star Gazer, Panda, Surprise, and Vagabond were all heading back to the Exumas before heading back north to the US. Everyone was up and gone before dawn, while FIN and Prism slowly got moving around 8am. The sail to Cat island was going to be on our quarter, but ended up being dead downwind, and with the swell being larger than we thought…. Well, it was rollier than shit. We once again tried so hard to catch some fish with absolutely no luck. Lucky for us, FIN once again caught plenty and invited us over to enjoy some fresh sushi once we made it to our anchorage. We aimed for New Bight and tucked in as close to the shore as the depth would allow us.
While we were at Cat, the weather was quite shitty we had a lazy day followed by a very lazy movie day aboard FIN. We all picked a movie and then watched all 5 in a row, breakfast till past dinner. Movies: Puss n boots, Zodiac, Tombstone, Berrie, and Perfect Storm. Once the wind switched directions and we could actually make it to the beach, FIN, and Prism headed to shore to hike up to the highest point in the Bahamas. The 206-foot incline took us about 10 minutes to make it to the top, where we got to explore the Hermitage and write our names in the visitor log. Quite a few other boats were waiting out the weather in the same anchorage and put together a Rake n Scrape for all of us to enjoy. Bo Hog and the Rooters played a few songs in the traditional Bahamian style. The women from his band also owned a little beachside restaurant and offered dinner plates for all 35 of us cruisers at $15/plate. It was great to hear the music, even though we wished it had lasted longer, but we drank them dry of all their beer and went home around 8pm.
As our time in the Bahamas comes to an end, we need to make up some serious miles to make it to the ABC’s by mid-April, With this in mind, we picked a weather window to head directly to crooked island in a few days after getting a few more days in with FIN at Cat. We sailed through some rain and gusty winds the few miles over to the more southern anchorage off the Rollezz Beach Resort. We had heard the resort had good wifi, and we were hoping to get more things lined up for checking out of the Bahamas and checking into the DR. Sadly, the internet was almost non-existent, but the resort was cute and had a beautiful dining/ hang out room. That night we said our goodbyes to FIN as they were heading back to Georgetown as they had family coming to visit. While Prism packed up and got ready for the 24-hour passage down towards the Acklins.
Crooked Island & the Acklin's
February 20, 2022: We did not need to leave early in the morning, in fact, Derek and Christina came over for coffee before we raised the anchor. We were underway just before noon and had just over 100nm to go. Once we rounded the tip of Cat Island and turned out bow south, we were met with the wind on the nose, like always. But it was light enough that it did not feel like bashing and could keep up a 5.5 to 6 knot average. Can’t complain too much about that. The sail was easy going, had almost no traffic and the swell was quite small. Still did not catch any fish, even as we skirted the banks off Long Island. The light was perfect as we made it to our anchorage tucked in behind Pittstown Point. SV Alchemy and SV Motu were already anchored and we were excited to catch up with both of them.
Motu also had luck fishing on their way down and shared their bounty with us as we enjoyed seared tuna and Mahi tacos. The next day Alchemy came over to play some games and have dinner aboard Prism. Kailey went on a lighthouse adventure with them while Jon and I enjoyed the boat to ourselves for a little while.
Alchemy, like us, is heading down to the south side of the DR via going around Haiti. So we are planning on sailing south with them. But they are moving a little faster than as, as we want to stop at Hogsty and they have to check out before their visa expires. So together we had a bitchin’ sail to the southern end of the Acklins and tried many times to get our anchors to grab in Jamaica Bay. It seemed like all our hooks could find was sand over rock. We knew the wind was going to pick up that night so we were all starting to get a bit stressed as we started to lose daylight and still no good places to set the hook. Finally, after our 7th attempt, Jon was about ready to just sail throughout the night to Great Inagua, when we tried one last spot that looked like it was sand. AND IT WAS! I was so not ready to sail through the night with sea picking up to 6ish feet and winds blowing 30+ knots. Yuck, I was so relieved when our Ultra Anchor grabbed and dove deep into pure white sand.
Jamaica Bay was a very interesting spot, the beach was small, and the weather seemed to wrap around the point and southern end of the island to cause wind against the current type of swell. It made for some rolly nights, yet we all were able to sleep well and get rest. The weather was starting to settle down, so Dru and Julie took the opportunity to head to Great Inagua, while we stained back a few more days to wait for the very calm weather to head to Hogsty Reef.
Before we continued south we moved Prism to Castle Island, which used to be a retreat for pirates back in the day who would raid ships in the nearby channel. The anchorage at Castle Island is located between 2 barrier reefs that you need good light to navigate through. We had heard the snorkeling was great in there so as soon as the hook was set Kailey and I jumped in to explore. Sadly like the reef at Conception, the reef was mostly dead and covered in algae. BUT there was a cute little bull shark that came up to welcome me. He was quite curious and circled back towards me 3 or 4 times before he finally got close enough that I dove down to meet him. He did not appreciate my coming closer to him and swam off at top speed. The next day we took the dinghy to shore and walked around the point to explore the lighthouse, the wreck on the beach in front of the lighthouse, and to just stretch our legs a bit. The beach at Bird Rock lighthouse is what I think of when people say the Bahamas. The beach was clean and clear, making it almost too surreal to look at. I could not wipe the shit-eating grin off my face even if I wanted to. The small waves lapping on the beach, the small birds chirping in the trees, the old wreck half submerged and the lighthouse just painted a picture of pure paradise. Kailey tried to make a trail towards the lighthouse, but the bush was thick and full of huge orb weaver spiders. There was no way to get a closer look without having heavier-duty clothes and shoes. We did however bring our snorkeling gear, so to cool ourselves down we plunged into the clear waters and checked out the shallow reefs and the wreck. When we got close to the wreck I spotted a huge shark just in front of us and I could barely contain my excitement when I realized it was a hammerhead! It was just slowly cruising around in the shallows and when it saw us, he simply turned the other way and we never saw it again. The wreck was nothing to write home about, but it was more alive than the reef in our anchorage. Once we were back at the dinghy, we were getting ready to jump into Penta when we all noticed a massive dark shadow cruising along the shoreline. We all rushed to the water’s edge and yelled with joy as we realized it was a giant manta ray! We might have all been kids waiting in line at Disneyland. We all thought, well if Castle Island has hammerheads and Manta Rays, then Hogsty Reef will be out of this world!
March 1, 2022: When we first set off for the Bahamas, Jon had his eyes on visiting this reef. Hogsty Reef is the only atoll in the Bahamas and one of eight in all of the Atlantic. It has two small sand spit cays and a U-shaped reef that spans over 4 miles. You need to have very settled weather to visit here as there is not enough protection from any direction. It just so happened that there were 2 days of dead calm, and this little slice of heaven is en route to Great Inagua, right smack dab in the middle of it. We motored the 38nm out to the reef and made our way up into the clear sand on the inside of the reef. We anchored and jumped in to check out a little patch reef first, to see if we should stay in this area or anchor out next to the little sand spit and the drop-off. The little patch reef was full of life, we had a baby Lemmon shark escort us for our entire snorkel and had the biggest barracuda any of us had ever seen follow us around as well. The shark seemed like no big deal, the barry, however, that fucker had us checking over our shoulders every few minutes. And yes, he was always there. The little patch reef was nice, but we were looking for more and wanted to get the most out of our scuba dives. So we headed back out towards the sand spit and anchored in what little lee it did offer. To keep our bow into the wrapping minimal swell we also put out a stern hook. We all slept like babies in a calm sea that night, despite the fact we were pretty much the only people around in the middle of nowhere. Crazy. The next day we prepped our dive gear are took Penta out about .2 miles and anchored her in about 45 feet. The wall was just another 100ft behind that, and that was where we were going to dive. Once we were at depth, the coral came alive, and we saw sponges that were, no joking, way larger than any of us combined. We had a few reef sharks check us out, but once again not nearly as many as I thought there were going to be. The coral growth offered huge overhangs and swim-throughs that we could not turn down! After our safety stop, we all surfaced with huge smiles and excited to get back to the boat to fill the tanks and go again. THIS IS WHY I MADE JON BUY ME A DIVE COMPRESSOR! We were also shocked to surface and find another sailboat had come in and anchored while we were blowing bubbles. A french family on their Adventure 50’ catamaran ( which is electric and has a very cool layout) invited us aboard to check out their boat. Not gonna lie, I am starting to see why people like cats so much, but then I remember that nasty squall we sailed through in the BVI years ago with our family and take back all my nice thoughts. Anyways, they were just stopping for an hour or so before sailing north. Once they were gone, our tanks were full and our surface interval was complete we were back down for dive #2. It was as beautiful as the one before, and I found myself thinking I wish there was no such thing as a decompression limit and that tanks were magically always full. The rest of the day was spent with us talking about all the different fish we saw and how crazy some of the corals were. Sadly we did not see any other large marine life and I have still yet to spot a sea horse. We went to bed early that night as we had an early morning to get going before the wind picked up too much.
March 3, 2022: Just after sunrise we were bringing up the anchor and we could see a squall packed with rain off in the distance. We got the hookup and were out of the coral head shallows before it hit us. It only had a little more wind than what was blowing, but it did have loads of rain. Once it passed, it took the steady NE winds with it, and we were left with flogging sails as we slowly bobbed while waiting for the trades to fill back in. That is how the rest of the 38 miles went as well. We would have some wind from the NE on our stern quarter pushing us along until a squall came by, sucking in the wind, causing a wind switch, then leaving nothing once it was past us. After many sail changes, reefs were put in and out and back in only to be taken back out at last. What should have been 10-12 knts off our port stern turned into 1,15, 8, 25, 8, and who knows what else and pretty much all off our port bow. So before we knew it, we had the yankee, staysail, and a reef or full main up, making our way to Great Inagua. Well, Kailey and Jon did most of the work, as I went down below to take a nap to catch up on the sleep I did not get the night before. We tucked into Man of War Bay at the west side of the island. We can see the Morton Salt Factory off our STBD and found a great spot to anchor in the sand right off the beach. Once again we are prepping for a lot of wind forecasted to show up in a few days.
The next day we sailed around Devils point and down to Mathew Town to get some fresh food, propane, and diesel. The supply boat had just come in, so we were in luck. Sadly the island does not fill propane anymore, which means I need to be smart when it comes to our cooking gas. The store was not large, but it did have fresh food which Prism really needed. The anchorage in front of the town is way more exposed, so we stocked up on food, and made plans to come back in a few days once the wind has blown by. As we sailed back up to Man of War we were reminded of what it is like to sail around capes/ point as Devils Point lived up to its name. There was not a lot of wind, but man oh man was it confused. First, it was behind, the on the bow, then on the Port, then the bow, and then randomly off our STBD. We were all just laughing, cause as soon as we would tack or jibe over the sails, it would switch again. Classic.
March 6, 2022: We are still sitting pretty in Man of War Bay and the wind is howling, but because we are anchored so close to the beach, it seems like all the wind is just simply going over us and causing quite the sea state behind us. All 3 of us have been inside using up the internet plan we bought to get all our affairs in line for the next country and for this summer. We are watching the weather and are planning on heading to the DR at some point next week. Fingers crossed that FIN gets to catch back up with us so we can buddy boat around Haiti.