Life Afloat on SV Light Reach Two Sailors and a Sea Dog

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Nassau Bound

06 April 2017
Sally Nassau has grown. Sunny and Crowded
We were up early to catch Chris Parker's forecast and have coffee. The forecast had not changed. We had 15nm to travel to Nassau Harbor with winds in the 10 to 15kt range on our beam most of the way. We hauled anchor at 08:15 and headed out. Once in the lee of the island the swell was nonexistent and we had a very pleasant sail to Nassau.
You must contact harbor control and be given clearance before you can enter the harbor. One of the reasons we had wanted to avoid Nassau. The harbor is chock full of ships mostly cruise ships with some freighters and all manner of commercial vessels. As we were making our approach to the harbor, which we could clearly see had 4 cruise ships in port, I looked off our port side and said "mmm Capt'n is that a cruise ship I see heading toward Nassau?? " Yes indeed it was RCCL Enchanment of the Seas. He thought we could make it in before the ship got there as she had slowed to take on the Nassau Harbor Pilot. Me , nope Captain we are not going to try to out run that ship. Once her pilot gets on board that baby will move much faster than we can. After a bit of bickering and listening to the ship indeed ask for a pilot and permission to dock we settled on waiting.
I hailed harbor control and was politely told we would have to wait for the ship to dock before we would even be considered for entry. Bummer We thought that by planning our arrival mid day all the ships would be in already. We cooled our heels for over an hour driving in circles. Meanwhile Absinthe with Jim and Bonita on board caught up with us. They had been with us in Morgans Bluff and West Bay. We were given permission to enter the harbor and threaded our way through the narrow and somewhat confusing entrance. There are some serious shoals on both sides of the entrance, bringing those humongous cruise ships into there is no small feat.
Nassau Yacht Haven is just past the two bridge spans that link Paradise Island to Nassau. I hailed the Marina and got instructions on how to negotiate our way into our assigned slip. That was the easy part. Just after you pass under the bridge to starboard is Potter's Cay. Once past Potter's Cay it is necessary to make a turn to Starboard keeping the marked shoal to port. Why the Bahamian government hasn't blasted that very rocky shoal out of the middle of the harbor is a mystery. The shoal divides the harbor channel in two narrow channels and the resultant current is quite frankly a bitch! The dock master was on his hand held guiding us in when of course two other boats demanded attention as well. We went past our fairway and were instructed to go back and turn around to come in facing east. All this fun was with a myriad of motor yachts, party barges and numerous other water craft to be avoided all while missing that damn shoal. We turned around and headed toward our slip being guided by John, the dock master. I was on the bow with a line which I failed to execute my throw and dropped the damn thing in the water. Did I mention docking is stressful?? And we hadn't been at a dock since November?? I finally got the line to John but we were moving way too fast toward the front of the slip. Holy crap John was yelling to Scott neutral mon neutral. (He was in neutral). The current had us in its ugly grip and was propelling us toward the dock at quite an alarming rate. Scott blasted us in reverse but our tiny little prop is about as effective as a toot in a windstorm and had no effect. The bow pulpit hit the dock with a resounding thud and the navigation light mounted on the bracket exploded in quite a spectacular shower of red and green bits. Meanwhile our stern is up against the boat in the slip next to us making some quite unfriendly advances of its own. I ran back with a fender while John shouted instructions to Scott to stay on the helm and get a spring line mon! I got a spring line on midship and eventually we got Light Reach straightened out and enough lines on to hold her steady. How the boat next to us did not sustain any damage with Light Reach banging on her port quarter is a miracle. Thank goodness she was okay and our damage was limited to the demise of our running lights on the bow and our egos. The pulpit wasn't bent, another miracle.
Absinthe followed us in but as they were assigned to a west facing dock the current just stopped them flat out and they had no trouble docking. Making us feel doubly foolish.
After getting settled we went to the office to check in, we opted to take the water option (12.60 a day) but felt no need for electric. We also signed on for two nights as we would have to repair the running lights before we could go anywhere. Fortunately there was a marine store right across the road from the marina and they had a light that would work in stock. Our inexpensive dock had suddenly become not so much of a bargain. We sucked it up, bought the light and decided we would install it tomorrow.
We hadn't been in Nassau in years, neither of us could recall just how many, so it seemed only right that we should explore. We put on our walking shoes and headed toward downtown. It turned out to be quite a trek and it was hot! The traffic was unbelievable! What was a small town when we first went in the late 80's has become a bustling metropolis. Much of the way there weren't any sidewalks and the traffic buzzed by us like angry bees. Clearly walking was not the preferred mode of transport from the marina to town. When we got to town it was evident that there were 5 ships in port. A mass of sunburned tourists were charging the stores, credit cards in hand with an overwhelming need to spend money. All the usual trinkets and pricey things that you can't live without were for sale. In the past we had been part of that hoard, how things have changed.
The straw market has changed tremendously. The ladies that wove baskets sitting in the shade of a small tiki hut have been replaced with stalls full of mass manufactured junk. If any of it is truly made in the islands I would be surprised. How you could make a living selling it was a mystery.
We decided to stop for a cool drink when we saw a sign that stated 2 beers $5.00. Now that was something within our budget! The Bearded Clam was packed with folks but we did find a table in the upper level. We enjoyed our Sands (Bahamian beer) and people watched. Quite the show.
We hopped the local bus back to the marina, much better than walking and quick!
We decided to take a shower and treat ourselves to happy hour at the marina's restaurant (The Poop Deck). Wings and calamari washed down with more Sands, now that's a balanced meal! It was delicious even if the service was on island time. We had a wonderful time bantering with the bar staff and the locals who had stopped in on their way home from work.
The picture is of us coming into Nassau Harbor past the light. You can see the green cans on the right side of the picture marking the shoals. You can also see the Behemoth cruise ships, 6 of them docked. What you can't see is the channel which bears to starboard and then to port off the left most ship. The Azure of the Seas has to be one of the ugliest cruise ships ever built! IMNSHO apologies to RCCL.

Vessel Name: Light Reach
Vessel Make/Model: Pacific Seacraft 37
Hailing Port: Annapolis Md
Crew: Scott and Sally and missing our CSO India the wonder Schnauzer she sails on in our hearts
Scott and Sally met in college, married and lived the average dirt dweller life for years always somewhere near the water. We fell in love with sailing in the early 90's. Summer of 2014 we both retired and became full time cruisers. [...]
Extra: "I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky; and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by." John Masefield
Light Reach's Photos - Main
August 2015 visit to Keuka Lake (New York Finger Lakes)
1 Photo
Created 2 September 2015