Great Exuma, Conception, Long Island,  Bahamas 

1st - 24th April 2006

Once the excitement of having a visitor aboard was over, life returned to its humdrum routine of beach combing, partying, card schools and fine dining.   Chris and Vivian arrived back in Georgetown on Second Chance just in time to catch the highly entertaining "Pirate Bob" party on the beach, organised by other cruisers.   This event featured musical entertainment and prizes for the best dressed "Pirate Bob", as well as a rather revealing coconut bra competition for the more daring cruising ladies (sorry boys we forgot the camera!).

The musical theme continued with a visit to the weekly dance at a local hostelry, where we "raked and scraped" to a Bahamian band.   The following night we partied on at an impromptu jam session on the beach, where Bob from Tranquilla entertained us with his excellent vocals and guitar strumming.

We felt it was high time we should get about the business of having some more adventures and we planned a trip to Conception and Long Island with Second Chance.   Now, Anju and Second Chance are very different types of vessels.   Second Chance is happy to motor directly into winds which Anju would find unpleasant with her 30 horse-power motor.   Once conditions become excellent for a sail aboard Anju, life on Second Chance becomes uncomfortable in the wind and swells.    So, our joint cruise started on different days but we were to be reunited two days later at Conception Island.

As Anju passed the tip of Long Island, trolling five fishing lines behind, we suddenly had a bite on all five lines at once.   We'd found ourselves in the middle of a school of Mahi-Mahi.   In the chaos resulting aboard, we managed to land only one of our catches and lose two of our lures.   On another line our Mahi was scoffed by her friends as we tried to reel her in.   We were happy to finally have landed a catch after such a long time without any fishing success.    

Phil threw the lines back out again and only minutes later we found ourselves fighting a whopper!.   After a struggle of about half and hour and the inauguration of our new gaff, we finally landed the fish by Anju's cockpit, where we eventually wrestled it into submission.    At the end of the battle, Anju's decks were covered in blood and scales and so was Christine's new white T-shirt, which would never be the same again!

Call that a fish........

Of course, you should have 

........look at the one I caught!  

 seen the ones that got away.

It was great to be back at Conception Island again and the crew of Anju were happy to bring along their catch for a fish and chip dinner with Chris and Vivian.    On anchoring, we were soon greeted by our new neighbours, who lived in the crystal clear blue waters, puffer fish and stingrays.  Despite being anchored in a depth of around 5 metres of water, we could see the sea bed clearly.    

In a year there had been some quite dramatic and depressing changes.    The first thing we noticed was that the population of cruising boats in the anchorage had greatly increased and we were in the company of about a dozen other boats.   On our previous visit we'd found only a couple of boats in the peaceful haven.   It seemed that the cruising population of the Bahamas was becoming more adventurous and the secluded spots harder to find.    

Another distressing change was the startling decline in the numbers of conch living in the shallow waters of the mangroves within the island.   The whole island is supposedly a nature reserve and a 'no-take' zone but the conch population had been decimated and the only remaining evidence was a huge mound of discarded shells.    With the larger number of visiting boats, even if there were a few rogue cruisers who ignored the 'no-take' rule, we felt that decimation on that scale could only be the result of commercial conch fishing.

Anju and Second Chance snuggle together while their crews improvise a picnic area from flotsam and jetsam.

After our experience in Chris' jet boat the previous year, when we'd imperiled ourselves picking a route through the extensive coral reefs on the windward side of the island, one would think we'd have more sense than to try it again.   Off we set pushing our luck again, searching the windward side of the island for a new picnic spot.   It seemed that the amount of flotsam and especially the jetsam washed up on the beaches had greatly increased since our previous visit.   We noticed that much of the rubbish brought ashore was labeled in French, which meant it probably originated in Haiti.

On our second day at Conception, Vivian and Christine amused themselves with an attempt to replicate the conch shell jewelry common on the islands.   The inside of the shells had a beautiful pink and shiny finish and using some broken pieces we'd gathered on our travels, we attempted to produce pieces small enough for jewelry.    As our attempts failed, our hammers got larger and larger and Second Chance's aft deck ended up littered with splinters of conch shell.    Even the Dremmel failed to make the cut and after an exasperating morning, we came to the conclusion that maybe the jewelry wasn't overpriced, as we'd previously believed!   We decided to go snorkeling in the shallow mangroves of the islands interior instead.

Exploring the shallows in the jet boat.


A nasty cold front was expected in the next couple of days and Conception is no place to be anchored when the wind swings into the west, so it was time to leave.   Anju took up anchor first and headed back towards Long Island.   During the trip a large south easterly swell started to build up between the islands and we feared that Second Chance would find conditions too uncomfortable to head to Long Island.   We were right and our joint cruise continued with Anju exploring a couple of anchorages in Long Island for several days while Second Chance was secured in the Hawk's Nest Marina on Cat Island.

The south-easterly swell and wind gave us ideal conditions to visit the often rolly anchorage at Calabash Bay at the north western tip of Long Island, where we discovered a long, unspoiled and largely deserted beach with only a few holiday homes.    

The following day, in preparation for the approaching weather, we headed further south to Salt Pond, knowing that, although with the southerly winds we were currently experiencing, the anchorage may be uncomfortable, when the front arrived with the stronger north and north east winds came, we'd be well protected.   Our move turned out to be a good decision because after a day of slightly rolly conditions, the wind turned north and howled at twenty to twenty five knots for the best part of a week.

Beautiful Calabash Bay, Long Island

View over Thompson Bay, Salt Pond.   Luckily conditions never required use of the hurricane shelter during our stay.


Our enforced stay in Salt Pond gave us the chance to get to know the charming small town.  On our previous visit last year, we'd only managed a brief visit ashore before leaving to avoid bad weather.   This time we also had the opportunity to catch up with friends, old and new, who were also sheltering in the anchorage.    Between squalls we entertained ourselves playing cards and eating fish and chips with Bob and Laurie on Tranquilla and spending time with OCC friends Dale and Spence from the motorboat New Moon, who had been our neighbours in Green Cove Springs.


Finally the wind died down and we headed back to Georgetown, happy to be able to replenish our water supply on board from the supermarket which kindly provided free reverse osmosis water for cruising boats.  

We were happy when Second Chance also arrived in Georgetown the next day, in time for us all to participate in the annual Easter Monday fund-raising luncheon at the church in Williamstown at the south end of Great Exuma Island.   The kind folks of Williamstown laid on a free bus for visitors from Georgetown and cooked up some wonderful stew and barbecue for us all to enjoy.   A pleasant hour of strolling after lunch gave us chance to take in all the sights of the town and visit the impressive church building with its beautiful stained glass windows.

We haven't been on a school bus in a while!

Williamstowns' chefs hard at work.


Phil and Chris enjoying their lunch.

Chris and Vivian were expecting guests to arrive on board the following day and our day of frivolity in Williamstown had left only a short time for them to prepare.    We all mucked in and by lunch time Second Chance had been tidied and cleaned, cornbread was baked for the guest with a wheat allergy and we were all relaxing over a delicious chicken curry lunch at Sam's restaurant.

As Chris and Vivian headed off to Long Island with their guests the following day our plan was to reunite the following Monday back in Georgetown ready to enjoy the Family Island Regatta, in which locals from many islands race one-another in the small sailing boats which were once the only means of inter-island transport.   The atmosphere in Georgetown was already becoming electrified as preparations began for the week-long party, competing boats began to arrive on the mail ships and a shanty town of stalls to sell food and drink began to appear on the waterfront.   We were really looking forward to the regatta.

Life, however, does not always take your plans into consideration and it was with great shock and sorrow that we learned of the sudden death of Christine's sister, Sue on the 20th April.   Naturally, we immediately set about trying to find a way to get ourselves back to the UK in a hurry and to work out where Anju would be safe in our absence.  

Of course, if you were planning a pleasure trip, booking flights would be no problem at all.   However, as we were stressed and desperate to get to the UK quickly, it proved much more difficult.    Finally with the assistance of a friendly telephone agent at American Airlines, Phil managed to negotiate the fare from the initial cost of over $2400 each to a bereavement fare of around $1000, however this could only be booked three days before travel, meaning we had to go through the whole booking rigmarole again the next day.    

Finally our tickets were booked for the earliest opportunity and it was time to pay, leading to another hiccough.   For some reason our British credit card could only be used to buy the tickets by us, in person, at the American Airlines sales office at the airport.   This meant a round trip of $50 in a taxi or we could try our hand at hitch-hiking, the most common means of transport by locals.    We didn't hold out much hope but within a minute of trying, we had a ride from a kind local family who squashed up in the back of the car to make room for us and then went out of their way to take us right to the airport.   We managed to get a ride back to Georgetown later, just as quickly.  After all the hassles of the previous couple of days, the kindness of the local strangers was greatly appreciated.  

Now all that remained was for us to actually purchase the tickets, which would have been easier if the Sales office were actually open.   It seemed only to open just before the daily flight to Miami, meaning we had to wait a couple of hours at the airport.   Finally, right at the official opening time the sales lady arrived and took us to the airport check-in desk to pick up and pay for our tickets.    With one computer problem after another, this small process took over an hour but we were relieved to finally have the tickets in our hands and the kind AA representative must have taken pity on us, as we found ourselves in the Business Class section for our transatlantic journey.

Once we had our tickets, we relocated Anju (at high water, just to be safe) into the marina in Georgetown.   During a previous visit there, we'd found ourselves aground at low water in the 7ft depths of the marina, with our 6.5 foot draft.   This meant that from our previous depth soundings from the dinghy, we knew where the deep water was located and made sure we picked a deep berth this time.    Minutes after we arrived we watched several other boats running aground during their approaches to the marina.

We were expecting Second Chance to arrive back in Georgetown the night before we were leaving and hoped that Chris and Vivian would keep an eye on Anju for us.    We waited nervously with our bags packed and finally at around 6.30 pm they arrived in the harbour and we hurried over to explain our predicament.    

Early next morning as the regatta started we flew out of Georgetown.......

Return to homepage     Return to index 2006