Stop and smell the roses is what I believe the theme of this trip is. Each time we decide that we are stopping for a day or two, the Universe decides otherwise. Although we do not currently have a hurricane chasing us back to Texas, we do need to get there before another storm chases us there. The following is a narrative of the next leg of our journey from West Caicos to Gerogetown, Exuma, Bahamas.
We left West Cacios and Mayaguana was our first stop in the Bahamas. It was too late for us to venture into the reef that encompasses Abraham's Bay so we stayed offshore on Southeast Point, which was not much more than a small reef to the east that kept the bigger waves from really bouncing us around all night. The anchor held well but I still got up and checked it often as it was quite rocky. I need to set the anchor alarm on the chartplotter and see how that works one of these days.
Just stopped and dropped the anchor off of Southeast Point... small reef with water breaking
We were pulling up the anchor and once again the starboard engine alternator belt was loose so we had no power in that engine. Thankfully we were off the reef and just floated out into deeper water while Jettie stuck her head once again down in the engine compartment and tried to tighten it. The fan belt was getting torn up and filled the engine compartment full of ground up rubber bits. It was only a matter of time and the bolt broke as Jettie applied pressure. We dug through the stainless steel screws, nuts and bolts that we had and came up with a screw and a nut to hold for the time being. Maybe we will find something on Mayaguana.
Jettie's Least Favorite Position.... head in the engine compartment
Abraham's Bay has two entrances. One goes right over the reef and inside and the other is a larger more respectable entrance. As advised by the cruising guide when there is an offshore swell, waves coming from the ocean, they make it hard to see the "entrance" to the reef on the south side. We watched another cat just go right on in and looked to be stuck at one point. We opted for the longer route to the other end and through the wider area. We had to make our way through the coral heads, of which I had not actually seen one, only dark patches which look like sea grass. Well, this time we saw a few coral heads. Big ol' bolder of coral just waiting to take you out and then a few fingers of fire coral sticking above the water waving at us. Oh my goodness, that was crazy. It is so hard to see stuff like that if the light is not perfect. Somehow we made it all the way through the Caicos banks and never saw one coral head in our path in twelve to fourteen hours of watching off the front of the boat. I don't know how we were so lucky. Mind you, we did see coral reefs that we avoided but we never saw any menacing heads lurking just below the surface of the water as we made our way to Providenciales.
Sunset on Abraham's Bay, Mayaguana, Bahamas
Beach off of dock to town
So where is the town and how do you get ashore? We chatted with the one couple that went in the south entrance and then with a man named Scully. Internationally known he says he is. Well, they tried to steer us to the path into town across the bay. "Look for the three sticks / poles and follow the white path then along side the dock." What three sticks? We could see some on shore by the edge of one entrance. We were headed in the wrong direction once Scully caught up to us. It was three thin metal rods with sailboat radar reflectors attached to them and they were spaced out at least 50 feet apart not together like the statement of looking for three sticks. The white path was where the outboard motors have brushed away the dark growth on the ocean floor and left only the white sand. It is a white path, but again not like it was communicated. With the cell phones safely tucked away in the dry bag and the underwater camera no longer working, I was unable to capture these Abraham's Bay directional originals. Maybe next time.
The dock was constructed with a base of conch shells. There are just piles of them everywhere it seems. I did get a few pictures of the mound of shells by the dock. It will be only a matter of time when this area too has over-fished these creatures. From what I have heard and read, conch is not allowed to be taken up north in Florida or Bermuda. We heard that there would be many fisherman coming in each with 1,500 or more conch each daily in Mayaguana. Some conch live as long as 40 years. There shells are magnificent and it is amazing that they use them for the base of a dock.
Old Queen Conch shell lying on an old boat
Conch pile across from Conch based dock
We made it to the customs office and filled out many papers and were even hit up for some cash to send a church group on a trip. We contributed $10 each to the cause. After becoming official visitors to the Bahamas we asked where we might find some lunch. Based on the cruising guide, we knew there were a few places so we thought it best to ask the locals. The customs lady rattles off conch, fish, burgers, wings, what do you want? I had no idea at that point, so she suggested going to Debby's, who just happens to be her sister. She would also call her and tell her that we were on our way. She pointed out the grocery store next to the black pickup truck and Debby's was the red roof just beyond. Sounds easy enough.
We made our way down the road to the grocery store, which had a sign proclaiming it's status as such an establishment. We walked down a hallway to a door proudly displaying an OPEN sign, although the door was locked and no one would answer our knock. Next door was a place the cruising guide talked about "Reggie's Guesthouse and Bar" and we knocked there. Nope, no one is home there either. Onward we walked passing a burnt down house and another small building and then we came to an intersection. To the left was a vacant tiny building with no glass in the windows, to the right was a bunch of weeds and trees, across the street to the left was a church with a gazebo where the locals hung out to catch a breeze. To the right was a playground with a basketball court that was being constructed. (At one point, we watched a pickup truck pull up and take a load of cinder blocks from the construction site. At that rate they will never get the court built.) Two door down from the playground was a bar with air conditioning and WIFI. Wow! That says a lot for an island of 300 people. And everyone had a cell phone. Bahama Telephone is doing well. (In the middle of the ocean between Mayaguana and Rum Cay Jettie got a text from Joel. I guess Bahama Tel has good coverage too.)
We got to the gazebo and asked about the grocery store and when it might be opened again. They said it was open, that he must just be at the house. A nice gentleman walked us back to Reggie's where we met Reggie's uncle and he took us into the store. There were only a few green peppers for fresh veggie and the mail boat was to be arriving a day or two ago, but was still at the dock in Nassau. We bought a six pack of a variety of sodas and that was it. It was good to have something cold to drink.
We started noticing that most of the houses had red roofs so we had to ask which way it was to Debby's. Again, they pointed towards more red roofs. Well, surely we will see the sign for the restaurant. Um... No. There is no sign as it is not a restaurant. It is a house. Debby said she had wings and burgers. So we got wings. Jettie asked "Where do we sit?" "You can sit out here," said Debby, pointing to the one chair and the wall surrounding her small porch. Okay, this will be interesting. Shortly thereafter a skinny Bahamian man came up to the door and talked to those inside. His name was Freeman and he chatted with us for a few. He said that Mayaguana is a wonderful place and there is no crime. Without missing a beat he yells angrily "Shut up, I was not talking to you! You shut up!" No crime, just a bit of hostility? He said that all of the people in the house were his aunts, nieces and cousins. Then as he waited with us and I looked at him closer and decided he looked like a black version of Neil. And he acted like Neil. His mannerisms, his speech, nearly everything about him. I asked Jettie who he reminded her of... Neil. Yep, Neil's doppelganger lives on Mayaguana. Bizarre! Then here comes Debby with a plastic grocery bag filled with two to-go containers of our lunch. So it is just a house with a woman that cooks food for other people to take away. And pricey $18 for chicken wings and fries. Very bizarre. Back to the gazebo to eat on the wooden bench seats.
We found out that the last game of the NBA playoff's was the next day, so we decided to rest one more day before our 24 hour sail to Rum Cay and go watch the game with the locals. It has been a while since I have been in a straight bar and now I recall why. Both Jettie and I got the attention of a set of brothers whom wanted to cart us off, put a ring on our fingers and have babies with us. Um...NOT! At one point, I was trying to get Jettie's attention, so I opened my eyes wide and kinda looked to my left where my "future husband" was sitting. Jettie says aloud "What is wrong with you? Why are your eyes wide like this?" as she imitates me. (She can be so blonde sometimes. LOL) Well she finally got it and understood after I told her what was going on. Then she made the mistake of accepting a drink from the brother and then she was saddled with him every step the rest of the night. I managed to get Anton to give us a ride back to the dock thinking I could skirt my fiance, but he hopped in the truck and rode with us. They were both gentlemen and helped us get ourselves and three frozen gallon bottles of water (Mayaguana's version of ice) we got from Anton, into the boat at low tide. We followed Scully as well as we could along the invisible white path given it was nearly midnight by then although the moon was bright. We got stuck once and had to go around in a circle until we were back in the one foot deep water area instead of the six inch deep water area.
We had heard from Gil (Hugh) that the Sumner Point Marina in Rum Cay was damaged and therefore not charging for dockage (to tie up to their docks and stay) and that is where they left their camera with a woman named Gro. So according to the cruising guide, I tried to call the marina a few times to check on the marks and entrance into the harbor but I got no reply. We had opted to do an overnight as it was just about 24 hours sail so we got there a little earlier than expected. So we slogged along with the Sun too low and in our faces to see very well in the coral strewn waters. We dodged as many of the dark spots as we could as we motored from one redish marker to another redish marker until the water was just dark everywhere. While I was putting out the fenders on the port side assuming from the pic I saw of Gil's boat, one of those expensive things bounced and rolled off the boat. Jettie spun us around and I managed on the first try to wind the line around the end of the boat hook successfully and got it back on deck. Then when trying to line back up we ran aground in the sand for just a minute or two as Jettie got us back in 4 feet of water and not 3.5 feet. Boy, it is shallow around these parts! The dock on the left is nothing but poles and the one on the right was tacked back together and in places sagged, rose and tipped. Scary stuff! Fortunately we are able to get water here as we were down to 75 of 200 gallons. Water is $.40 a gallon. In Puerto Rico it was free and in St Thomas it was $.18 a gallon.
What's left of the Sumner Point Marina
Rum Cay is only a few miles long and maybe a mile wide. I will have to check the dimensions. It is like Mayaguana in that there are few named business and the rest are run out of a person's home with or without signage. The grocery stores are barely stocked with items which I am not sure why they are still there. With as little fresh food and such that arrives on the island, one would think that nearly everything would be bought up. The "bar" on Rum Cay was the front yard at Delores' house. She is the mother of Kaye, who runs the grocery store and whom the "bar and restaurant" is named after. Wifi is also available "at the bar" under the tree (with a bunch of mosquitoes and noseeum's). Slap, type, swat, type, repeat!
Bar and internet at Kaye's
Jettie had a nice talk with Delores while Kaye and I chatted. Jettie bought a copy of Delores' book about Rum Cay and it's people for $10 and she also gave her some crab. We had lunch at the "park" which was across the street from Kaye and Delores' house. I had ribs, rice with crab (not pieces of crab meat, but whole pieces of crabs in the shell), mac and cheese and spicy coleslaw. Jettie had fish instead of ribs. It was quite good sans the crab. There were dogs everywhere to clean up the leftovers except there were no takers for the leftover coleslaw.
There are less than 100 people that live on this island. There is no bank so I wonder how they transact business. Does the bank somewhere mail you cash in a box disguised as a book? The marina fortunately takes credit cards or we would be up a harbor in a boat as the last of our cash went to pay the $300 cruising and fishing permit for the Bahamas. The customs guy in Caicos told me they would take a credit card. Good thing I did not believe him and had cash. I am going to have to ask around to find out which island has an ATM or bank as I am down to my trusty two dollar bill stash.
Mike and Ben (guys with their boats at the marina) have been great help in finding us another nut and bolt and in looking for an extra long bolt in case that one breaks. I think changing the torn up belt will fix our problem as it was a Perkins belt and not a Volvo Penta belt. It was smaller than the one they looked up for our engine sometime ago and maybe why it keeps coming loose. Jettie got it replaced, the excess oil from her oil change overflow pumped out and the engine compartments cleaned out. Ben also brought us two five gallon buckets of ice which he and Mike humped over to our boat. And we filled up our water tanks from Ben's boat's watermaker. That was so nice! We even invited them back for a cold beer once the ice did its job but neither came back for one.
Now we have to decide where to stop next and when to leave. I am glad we will filled up with water. We are getting a little low on drinking water but should be able to make it to Georgetown or Nassau without running out.
We decided to take the quick hop to Calabash Bay on Long Island so we would be a bit closer to Georgetown. It was a beautiful bay but there was a bazillion bugs after dark. That was evident in all of the screens that enclosed all of the buildings that comprised of the Cape Santa Maria Resort.
We pulled in and navigated around the dark spots and coral areas and I stopped quite a way from shore, but Jettie wanted to get closer. I don't like getting close because of the bugs. The further away the better. So we went back and forth about where to go and I decided to stay put. Good thing I did as we took the kayaks to the shore and on the way, I thought it looked awfully shallow so I stuck my paddle in and it hit the bottom with about 18 inches at most under water. Yikes! You can see it in the pic below.
Cape Santa Maria Resort with shoal (high spot like sandbar) visible in middle of pic
Jettie out front of Cape Santa Maria Resort
Dutchess off in the distance
We met a nice family from Austin. Denise and Ken and their two girls. Ken and one daughter swam out to the boat from the beach. As you can see from the pic, that was quite a chore especially with the tide going against you on the way back.
Next stop Georgetown, Exuma, where the chartplotter makes it look really scary with all of the coral head notations, but it was one of the easier ones as it was nicely marked. Only drawback was the shifter for the engine is really tight on starboard side and really hard to even get in reverse. I don't want to land up like Dianne and Kelly and have it break underway so we will have to address it before we leave Georgetown. We met Billy and Leslie on S/V (Sailing Vessel) Bye Polar and started hanging out with them. They are great folks. Lots of fun dinners and a lot of game nights in our future.
More when I have a wifi connection that will not make me want to pull my hair out in gobs!