17th March  - 15th May 2010

As the sun rose on our first day in the Bahamas, things weren't looking too promising.     We crossed the banks and made our way towards the deeper water of the Tongue of the Ocean, we were beset by constant light rain and an overcast sky.    It felt like a Welsh bank holiday!  The forecast seemed unsettled, causing us to scrap our plan to head southwards into the deep water and directly across yet more shallow banks, to the Exuma Islands.   Instead, we found ourselves entering Nassau harbour at around 10.30 pm.    Based on past experience, we knew the entrance was well buoyed and lit and previously had used a nice, easy anchorage just beyond the entrance channel, so we weren't too apprehensive about a night time arrival.    Of course, things change, cruise ships get bigger and their turning basins get dredged accordingly.    The effect of this was that our "nice, easy anchorage" had been dredged to depths of around 12 metres.     This was unhelpful, forcing us to pick our way through the crowded harbour in search of an alternative anchorage.     

Even more unhelpful was the harbour master's instruction that we should enter a marina to clear customs.     At mid day, reaching someone at one of Nassau's marinas by VHF radio was unlikely, at 11 pm impossible.     We weren't quite clear how we were expected to find a vacant berth at one of the many marinas by ourselves, in the dark .    Tired, frustrated and blinded by the lights of Nassau's town, we decided it was safer to drop the hook and take our chances with the poor holding and the possibility of an angry harbour master.     We got lucky first time, found a large and deep enough spot out of the channel, our hook held and we headed for bed.

After our early morning call for the 6.30 am weather forecast with Chris Parker, we decided we needed to press on southwards if we were to make Georgetown before the next batch of high, contrary winds.    By 7 am our anchor was back up and we were heading eastwards, away from bustling Nassau.   We crossed the shallow banks between New Providence Island and the Exuma chain and by mid afternoon were headed out through Highbourne Cut into the deep Exuma Sound.     We had enough wind to sail, the fishing lines were deployed and despite the grey skies, life was good.    Neptune was generous with his bounty and we landed a good sized Mahi-Mahi just off Highbourne Cay.   Unfortunately by the time the fish was landed, filleted and frozen, the wind died off and we were making only 3 knots.    It was time to raise the trusty Yannicker (i.e. switch on the Yanmar motor).    

We had a beautiful, calm and quiet overnight trip down to Great Exuma Island and by first light we were passing through Conch Cut into the anchorage at Georgetown.      By lunchtime we were officially cleared into the Bahamas and by supper time, we were sharing our catch with our friends Chris and Vivian on their boat, Second Chance.    The reunion was bittersweet as one of their lovely dogs, Shelly, had died as a result of a tick borne disease she'd contracted in the islands, leaving her brother Zapper, Chris and Vivian very upset.

Frying tonight

Chris and Zapper sail their dinghy.


Life in Georgetown was in its usual full swing.   We were kept busy with a social whirl of happy hours, poker nights, standing in line for propane fills, visiting the laundry and bringing home clothes with more stains than they had when dirty, games and fun on the beach and catching up with old and new friends.    Chris and Vivian's families kept us entertained with music concerts during their visit to the Bahamas.    Meanwhile, we tried to fend off all those Happy Hour hors d'oeuvres calories by walking the trails and along the beach every day.   


Impromptu concert by the family

Bush-bashing to the beach.

Setting a trend for blue hulled boats with white spots!


A first for us was finding a spot to anchor near central Volleyball beach.    This location had great advantages, as we were sheltered from strong winds, between two headlands and relatively close to our friends and everywhere we wanted to be, avoiding the long, bumpy and wet dinghy rides when the wind was howling.   This it did, often, during our month long stay in Georgetown.

The frequent high winds made the constant battle with boat maintenance quite a challenge.   It was hard to paint when the paint would blow right off the brush and land down the side of the boat.

We decided to miss the Family Island Regatta, instead making the most of the fact that the majority of cruisers in the Exumas were staying put in Georgetown for the fun.   On our way northwards up the Exuma chain we enjoyed uncrowded anchorages.    We stopped at Big Major's Spot, Staniel Cay, to snorkel the famous Thunderball cave again.   For a blissful half hour, we had the place all to ourselves and watched the abundant marine life going about its business in peace.    From there we headed to Cambridge Cay, an anchorage we hadn't visited before and found this just as quiet.     With fellow OCC Brits Phil and Nikki of the catamaran Ajaya, we snorkelled the nearby "Coral Garden" before retiring to Anju to watch a gorgeous sunset.     As we sat on the deck enjoying the beautiful setting sun, we spotted a rocket launched from Cape Canaveral and followed its progress with our binoculars until is disappeared into space.

                                                      Atlas rocket flying by

Sunset at Cambridge Cay

All those years before, when we'd been considering what type of sailing yacht to buy for our adventures, we'd settled on steel for its strength and ease of repair.     People joked that our boat was an "Australian Coral Cruncher".    Unfortunately we put this premise to the test when, due entirely to a brief lapse in focus, we managed to wedge our beloved Anju between two coral heads, where she became stuck.      A check overboard showed that going forward was impossible due to the shape of the reef, the only way out would be backwards.   With her own motor, Anju struggled to free herself in reverse from her plight but we were firmly stuck.     

Luckily our old friend Kevin from the Exuma Park was on hand and two of the Park's high powered powerboats finally managed to yank us free.    The trauma of this incident stayed with us for several days.   However,  we were slightly  less disheartened when inspection of the coral showed that you couldn't even tell it had been struck.     It would have been mortifying to damage coral in our beloved Park.     We would be forever grateful to Kevin for his calm and efficient management of our predicament.    His only comment on the subject was his relief that it was a steel boat, not a more-easily-punctured fibre glass hull.    From her trauma, Anju sustained just a couple of scratches in the antifouling paint low on her keel. 

Next day came another traumatic incident.   After living aboard for over twelve years, Phil managed to fall overboard.    Luckily we were firmly tied to the mooring and he landed next to the dinghy in the strong tidal current, so was easily recovered and uninjured, except possibly for a dented pride.    It was far from the best week of our cruising life.

Christine checking the coral for damage

Local resident doesn't seemed bothered by the incident.

Our next visit was to Shroud Cay where we took a peaceful paddle through the mangrove lined water channels through the island, stopping for a snorkel with the resident colony of snapper.    After this we were on our way back to Florida.    We were keen to make the trip quickly as we, yet again, had a plane to catch.    However we were keen to avoid over-night trips as much as was possible, as they become more and more tiring the longer we cruise.    First we anchored in Nassau, hoping for a good night's sleep before we headed off.     We spent several of the evening hours on anchor watch, the small group of anchored boats, including ours, moving around wildly and getting very close to one another, while the wind and current opposed each other.  Finally the tide turned, the boats settled down and we headed to bed.   At least we would have six good hours before the crazy boat ballet began again with the turn of the tide.

We'd spotted a promisingly looking anchorage at the north end of the Berries group of islands, named Great Harbour and planned our next night's stop there, before the overnight trip back to the USA.     It turned out that Great Harbour was not really as great as advertised!    Until we hit the sack all was peaceful, then suddenly we found ourselves continually rocked by waves finding their way into the anchorage.    We got no sleep and if we'd known we were losing a night's sleep, would have preferred to be underway towards Florida.     Still spirits were lifted next morning, once we'd woven a course between the fleet of cruise ships anchored off the island, when we landed a good sized tuna.

More of these cruise ships, travelling only at a similar speed to our little sailboat, kept us alert during our overnight trip through the New Providence Channel and across the Gulf Stream.    By lunchtime we had cleared Customs and Immigration at Lake Worth Inlet and it was time for a nap.   

From Lake Worth we headed outside to Fort Pierce, stopping briefly at Vero Beach Marina, catching up with our buddies Gerda and Jack on Sadie A.     They caught us up again when we were anchored at Eau Gallie and by the time we reached Titusville, passed us by.    We decided to make that a short day, having heard a scary weather forecast for the afternoon hours.    Sure enough we were engulfed in a nasty thunderstorm and relieved to be safely anchored.     

From Titusville we headed out of Ponce Inlet and overnight up to Mayport Inlet.    We arrived before dawn and despite being frequent visitors to this inlet and having good charts, picking out the channel buoy lights against the bright lights of the Naval base was a little stressful.    

Back at Green Cove Springs we began preparations for Anju's summer lay-up.    This time the masts were coming down.     The masts were long overdue for painting and we decided this was the time to take them down in preparation for painting them later.   We also hoped this would keep Anju safer if any nasty storms should pass over the marina.

Down come the masts after 10 years

Anju heads to the storage yard for her summer nap.

We moved aboard our land yacht "Harvey-the-RV" and headed north.
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