Flamingos, Salt Ponds, and Rolling
28 February 2014 | Man of War Bay, Great Inagua, Bahamas
Yesterday morning we moved the boat down to Matthew Town. It took about an hour. We weren’t sure if we would spend the night there or not. When we got there and realized how badly the boat was rolling we knew there was no way we’d be spending the night at anchor in that harbor. We managed to get the dinghy down and get into it while the boat was jumping up and down. It didn’t get any easier when we got inside their town harbor. There were old derelict looking fishing boats tied up to all the docks, which were very high and impossible to climb up to. There was also a large sunken jagged rusting steel barge right in the middle of the small harbor. People kept asking if we were in the “marina”. We’d say “There’s a marina?” until we realized they were talking about that harbor. Then there was a boat ramp with a few hard dinghies on it. That is where we headed. It was made of cement but was covered with growth which I found out the hard way was really slippery. When I got out I mentioned to Bill how slippery it was but when I grabbed the dinghy line and pulled it up my feet slipped out from under me and I went down hard. I was upset but nothing broke or bled so I guess I was OK.
We found a young man named Chris on one of the fishing boats who gave us the information on buying food and fuel. He kept offering to call someone to give us rides but we told him we would walk to the food store and then come back later for the fuel. The store was actually one of the better stores we’ve seen, not quite up to Georgetown’s standards, but very nice. There was no produce though. I was sorry to see that.
We took the groceries back to the boat which was still jumping up and down. Even though we didn’t really need fuel we wanted to have as much as we could carry before we head into areas unknown. We needed fifteen gallons to be at full capacity. We have two five gallon diesel cans. We figured two trips in would give us what we needed but it was going to be such a production with how the boat was moving to do that. We would settle for ten gallons.
This time the young man, Chris, was ready for us. He apparently decided he would earn himself a tip. He came and got us before we got off the dinghy and showed us the right way to deal with getting off and on in their harbor. He took our trash and carried our fuel cans, empty and full, to and from the fuel station next door to the marina. Then he helped us launch our dinghy again. Of course we tipped him! We told him we would be back again in a little while since we were going to go on a tour of the island. Either we didn’t tip him enough, or he figured he had gotten all the tip he would get so he didn’t come back to help us again. No problem, now we knew how it was done.
We managed to get a ride to Customs and Immigration and we checked out of the Bahamas. Now we had twenty four to forty eight hours to leave the country. We waited there for the park ranger we had arranged a tour of the Inagua National Park with. It was a two hour tour around the salt ponds where supposedly 60,000 pink flamingos lived. A review we had read said that it was very uncomfortable and they didn’t see that many flamingos. Well, it was a rocky dirt road the whole way, placed there to contain the water for the salt ponds – which were very cool to see. They were beautiful shallow lakes with mounds of salt crystals on the sides. We even saw some of the harvesting equipment that they use to scoop up the salt and load it into trucks. I do agree, it wasn’t very comfortable. We saw quite a lot of pink flamingos, like the ones you see in the picture above, but there weren’t huge numbers of them. The park ranger was very knowledgeable but he wasn’t very chatty. He answered all our questions but he didn’t really narrate the tour. Either way we were glad we did it. It certainly let us see what we set out to see.
When we got back to the boat it was still jumping up and down. We couldn’t turn the engine on fast enough and get away from there. On the way Bill realized we might have the same issue at our original anchorage because the wind direction had changed and there was a large swell. We called on the VHF to see if anyone was anchored there and what the conditions were and a boat answered us and told us it was fine. We didn’t bother to ask what kind of boat he was though. He had just left and I could see he was a large powerboat. Apparently they don’t sit in the water the same way we do. When we got there and anchored back in our original spot it was almost as bad as it was in Matthew Town. We tried all our tricks but nothing was helping. We were miserable. It wasn’t even possible to make dinner. We knew the wind was going to change direction overnight but we didn’t know when. Bill decided the only thing to do was to stay up and watch movies. He was in charge of the selection. What do you watch while you are holding on to make sure you don’t fall out of your seat? The Three Stooges and Sleepless in Seattle! You may think that sounds like an OK night – let me tell you – it was not!
We didn’t sleep much and the boat was nowhere near ready to leave on a two day passage so we were happy to hear our weather router tell us this morning that if we wait until tomorrow to go we will be able to sail more. That is good! We need today to recover from yesterday. Luckily it is nice and smooth out there now.