The Adventures of CS33 Borean
2003 - 2004


Instalment 8 - January 26th, 2004
Walkers Cay, The Bahamas

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(Occationally, editorial comments from Don of S/V Destiny Calls, host of this web site and southern waters frequenter, will appear in green italic)


Eigthth Installment
Were in de Islands Mon
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Hi folks, and sorry for the long delay. There really hasn’t been much to write about, and doing nothing really takes up a lot of time. When we last left you we were on our way back to Miami from Cuba via Marathon. We spent New Year’s in the harbour in front of the Miami Yacht Club with a friend, Victoria. She had come to spend a week with us in Miami. While at anchor, New Year’s eve, we had one of the best seats in the house for the fireworks at midnight. It was just like St. Jean Baptiste or Canada Day!

We could see fireworks sent aloft from all points of the compass, but none surpassed the display put on by the city of Miami. We were drinking champagne, sitting on the deck in summer clothes watching the first day of the year for 2004. From a house on an island nearby, we heard the music for “Auld Lang Syn” at midnight. It is not like back home, where you were warm and cozy inside, watching the ball drop in Times Square in New York.

In Miami an orange drops from a building we were told. We did not see it We just hung around, drove down to the Keys to see our friend Al in Plantation Key and his new boat. A real find! He is the best bargain hunter we know. He managed to buy a Hunter 28 footer for a grand total of $3,500. What a good deal for him.

We also went back to South Beach. Janette got a hair cut and we did laudry. The crowds were much bigger than when we were there in October. A side trip brought us to Ft. Lauderdale, where we went to the biggest flea market I have ever seen. It is called the Swap n Shop. During the day it is used by various vendors, and at night it is a drive in theater. Anything you can imagine is for sale from new goods to used items.

We had lots of fun looking at all stuff for sale. For Janette it was a super garage sale. And you know how she likes to go to garage sales! She did buy three new cotton long sleeved sweat shirts with gold stitched Fort Lauderdale logos (a bit dirty but needing good wash) for the grand children. And she only paid $2,50 for each one! They were sent off for them to wear this winter.

By January 7th, it was time to start heading back north so we could plan our crossing for the Abacos ( north Bahamas). Janette and I decided to go back to Cooley’s Landing so we could get some chores done on the boat. The dinghy needed some professional attention due to some negligence on my part. We also had to replace our antennae and wind indicator, as we lost both of these going from Bahia Honda to Cayo Levisa in Cuba. Unfortunately waiting for the dinghy caused us to lose out on a good weather window. While at Cooley’s we met up with two other boats waiting for an opening. They too had things to get done.

We finally left Cooley’s on the tide change, so we could go and tie up along the wall on the New River beyond the bridges. We were going to leave Florida in the early morning hours to head towards West End. The other two boats had never done a crossing before and I sensed some jitters. Discussions were always about the weather and when would be a good time to leave. A window was opening up giving us the desired wind direction and speed, but the weather for the following day would put the wind on the nose for part of the trip to a safe anchorage. There was the question of the marina cost at West End. I pointed out that we would have it rough for about 3 hours and it would be a brisk sail thereafter to Great Sale Cay.

The departure time from Florida was to be at 2 o’clock in the morning as that was when they could leave their slips on the tide. We were already moored on the other side of the 3 bridges and waiting. I could hear them on the radio trying to get the attention of the first bridge operator, who it seems was sound asleep. After contacting the second bridge operator (who telephoned the first) the bridge was finally opened a half hour later.

We finally got to the outer marker at 03:45 and set our course. The winds were very light but we quickly found the Gulf Stream and were easily doing 8 knots over the bottom. We did very good time in the smoothest crossing we have ever done. The wind picked up a bit a couple of hours out of our landfall, so we had a little extra push. We got into our slip at Old Bahama Bay Marina(formerly Jack Tar) at 14:00.

I cleared Customs and Immigration without any problems. We had to pay $150 usd for a six month permit. After the same process was completed with the other boats, we were invited over for a glass of champagne to help them celebrate their first crossing ever. Soon there was talk again about weather for the following day and how long it would take to get to Great Sale Cay. I told them what I was expecting it to be but that I wasn’t deterred by it. I knew what the boat was capable of handling and what we were able to handle. The following morning Janette and I were up while it was still dark to get ready to leave at first light. With the engine warming up and untying spring lines the other captains showed up with coffee cups in hand. I told them that we were leaving, and they helped us cast off. With that done they hurried back to their boats to get ready themselves.

The weather man was right (for once) and the wind was coming in from the north west at about 15 to 20 knots (closer to 20). The entrance to Old Bahama Bay Marina is designed to completely protect the harbour. As you weave through 2 gates, and the opening to sea is rather narrow. With the wind direction we had, the waves were being pushed through this narrow opening and it created a surge. I had to open the throttle fully as the boat was being pushed to one side, dangerously close to a stone breakwater wall. I had these terrible visions of the motor cutting out and crashing onto the wall, but we finally made it out. Janette immediately got on the radio to warn the other two boats following that all power would be needed to get out safely.

The 2 boats made it out safely as well. We were all heading into the wind and a short choppy sea. There was some discussion from the last boat as to if this was the wise thing to do and they decided to turn back to the Marina. His buddy soon followed. I didn’t take his comment lightly as we were being bashed about pretty good with every 5th wave stopping our progress. I reassessed the situation, consulted the charts once more and decided that if we were not at a certain waypoint by a certain time we too would turn back. So we continued on and 90 minutes later the seas were slightly calmer and our outlook seemed brighter. Time was still on our side. Once again, I consulted the charts after putting down a plot, and saw that we could enter the banks before the suggested waypoint. Soon after we altered course to the east-north east, entered the banks and everything changed. We were able to hoist all sails turn the engine off and have a great sail to Great Sale Cay.

The sun was out, it was warm, and we could finally relax a little. With books in hand Janette and I read whilst keeping a lookout for other vessels. Around one o’clock the VHF radio came to life with a call from a boat that was looking for “any station”, this usually means either a radio check, or someone is in trouble. It happened to be the latter. She was a forty foot power boat just off Mangrove Cay and she had run out of fuel. She asked me if I would put in a call once I was closer to Fox Town. I said that I could still hear Old Bahama Bay Marina and that I would try and raise them. I was successful in relaying the distress message and soon there would be a boat from Ocean Rescue and Recovery on the way to fill up their tanks. The captain was very grateful for my help and told me that whenever we get to Green Turtle Cay, she would buy me as many Kaliks (beer)as I could hold. I don’t know if she meant in my arms or in my belly. As we approached Mangrove Cay I could see the boat “Joyous” who was at anchor waiting. We chatted a bit on the radio and she told us we “look absolutely wonderful with all your sails out”. The captain’s name, she told me was Negley “either for negligee or negligent…..depending”.

The daylight was coming fast to a close and we were still not at anchor. Here as in the Caribbean the sun goes down all of a sudden, not giving much warning if you aren’t looking at the time. At 18:00 we were still 2 miles from our destination, we could see the anchorage in the distance. We finally got the anchor down 40 minutes later. We had broken one of the principle rules of navigation in the Bahamas of not arriving in daylight. Fortunately for us, the weather was calm, and Janette was able to pilot me through both visually and by GPS waypoints. I must also add at this point that our depth sounder isn’t quite accurate. And this does not help. With the anchor down and holding we had dinner and had a good night’s sleep.

There really isn’t very much at Great Sale, but it is a safe anchorage for most wind directions, except for south through west. The Island itself is uninhabited and is comprised mostly of mangroves. There had been an attempt at some point for a resort or something, as we saw a cement foundation and that’s all there was. Two days later the other 2 boats arrived in the anchorage. We had happy hour on board on of the boats and talked of weather. What else is there to talk about?

With a front moving in, Janette and I decided to seek refuge at Grand Cay, which lies about 20 miles to the northwest of the Great Sale Cay anchorage. Once again we headed to weather and navigated our way through a narrow passage that leads into an all weather anchorage next to the pretty town of Grand Cay.

This is a small island, with tightly packed neat cement homes. There is a school for all ages, a clinic, a Baptist church , a cemetery and there are more than three takeout restaurants. Rosie seems to own a lot too- one lounge, restaurant, one hotel and the only laundry facility. There were many new homes under construction. We were surprised to see how big these homes were. Most are two stories built right on the rock. They are very large compared to most of what we had seen in the rest of the Bahamas. The tiny road network is nothing more than an oversized cement sidewalk on which they ride golf carts and bicycles. Some of these are pretty fancy golf carts! One very fancy new house had two golf carts parked in front of the door! The narrow roads have stop signs, and a 10mph speed limit through the school zone. The streets carry names like Percy Rolle Highway. It’s about 500 meters long. Then there is Joseph street, Sunrise, and they even have one named after me….Big Jim Street. The population is about 450 people, of which about 400 are Bahamians, and the others Haitians.

Most people work at the resort on Walkers Cay nearby, or fish for a living. We will be here for a few more days , before heading east towards Marsh Harbour.


Don:

It used to only cost $ 10.00 for a Bahamian Cursing permit not too long ago. Now it’s $ 150.00 for boats under 35 feet in length and $ 300.00 for 35 and over. Needless to say, I think it sucks.

I am not alone.

Generally this cash grab has backfired. Sport fisherman are boycotting the Bahamas ironically punishing not the bureaucrats in Nassau who dreamed up the new permit gouge, but the little guys trying to eak-out an living operating the various marinas and clubs.

I've heard stories of cruisers by-passing (officially anyway) the Bahamas altogether to avoid paying the fee. Talk about penny wise and pound foolish. I can't think of a sadder thing to do. The Bahamas is one of the best cruising areas on the planet, and for want of a small wad of US Green Backs some are staying away. I don't like the fee, but I wouldn't by-pass the place because of it. Life is too short.

The way I figure it the extra fee is the equivalent of 2 1/2 cases of Kalik beer at Exuma Markets. Next time I’ll cut back one beer a day for a month and a half and call it even.


to read past instalments, click here to go:

to the 2003 - 2004 Borean log list


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of S/V Borean