Back to the Bahamas 

12th - 22nd May 2006


After a traumatic three weeks in the UK, we were finally on our way back to the Bahamas.    Our return trip was even more long-winded than our trip home, involving a sprint through Chicago airport and its numerous security checkpoints in order to make our connection to Miami.   Of course, once we boarded the plane, the plane sat at the gate for an hour, short of a pilot!  

Once in Miami we had to wait overnight for our flight to Georgetown on Great Exuma Island.   Fortunately we were able to pre-book ourselves "luxury accommodation with a free, frequent shuttle bus service to and from the airport" via the internet, to reduce the stress involved and after an hour long wait for the "frequent" bus, we spent the night in a charming motel, where little English was spoken and although the outside resembled a less-than-luxurious hotel from a South American shanty town, the rooms were amazingly comfortable and the kind desk clerks lent us their collection of take-away menus as room service!   On their recommendation we plumped for Chinese, believing that if a Spanish-speaking person recommends the Chinese food over the Mexican, you should probably take their advice.   At 10 pm, just as we began to fear we were in for a hungry night, our meal was delivered right to our door and would probably have fed all the neighbouring guests.


The Georgetown we arrived back to was greatly changed from the one we left.    Instead of around 400 anchored cruising boats in Elizabeth Harbour, only around 50 remained.   This not only had the effect of making the beaches, supermarkets and VHF radio airwaves very peaceful, it also gave us an excellent chance to beach-comb as we unwound after our trip. 

The town of Georgetown was also transformed, firstly by the removal for rebuilding of the road bridge over the entrance to the lagoon around which the town is built.  This meant if you wanted to nip from the supermarket to the hardware store, a walk of about three-quarters of a mile, all the way around the edge lagoon was involved in order to cover the distance of around a hundred yards between the two.   The atmosphere of the town was also strikingly different with a far more relaxed feel, the locals seeming to still be in party mode after the regatta.



Flying back into Georgetown

The weather had become noticeably hotter and luckily the sea was calm, allowing us to break up our treasure-hunting trips on the beaches with long wallows in the rock pools, to cool off.

As charming as Georgetown was, hurricane season was approaching and it was time to head north again.   After a couple of days of rest and relaxation, we slowly began the long trek northwards with a day long motor-sail to Big Majors, near Staniel Cay.   

We had planned to take a snorkeling trip the next morning to the Thunderball cave but on hearing the weather forecast, decided it would be more prudent to seek a safe anchorage for the arrival of nasty weather the following day.   Our best option would be to take a mooring buoy at Warderick Wells Park but as these are normally hard to come by at short notice, only being available in limited numbers, we feared we may be out of luck and have to take our chances in the island's southern anchorage.    

Fortunately the Park membership we'd subscribed to on our previous visit gave us priority on the waiting list over non-member boats and we were the last boat lucky enough to be allocated a mooring before the bad weather arrived.   

Sure enough the weather forecast from Chris Parker proved completely accurate and we spent the next day aboard Anju riding out sustained 30 knot winds with higher gusts and thunderstorms, as a fierce cold front passed over the Bahamas.   We were relieved to be in the relative shelter of the the mooring field.   

Happy to have a mooring at Warderick Wells

Mooring field at Warderick Wells

Riding out the weather

As soon as the wind and sea died down again it was time to continue the trek northwards.   Another  long day of motor-sailing to Highbourne Cay at the north end of the Exumas.   We'd anchored before at Highbourne Cay but this time approached from the Exuma Sound (deep water) side of the island and had to pass through the nerve-racking Highbourne Cut, where once again we were relieved at the accuracy of the Explorer chart kits.   The following day we pressed on to Royal Island in preparation for the crossing to the Abacos, the northern islands of the Bahamas group.
Another day-long motor-sail and we were across the deep water to the Abacos.    The trip was brightened up by the catch of a nice Mahi-Mahi (Dolphin Fish) and the prospect of a fish and chip supper when we arrived.   Another British boat had left Royal Island to cross at the same time as us and after talking to them during the crossing on VHF radio, we were invited aboard Astridos for drinks with Jim and Astrid when we'd anchored at Lynyard Cay.  

The following morning we moved Anju a few miles to an anchorage behind Sandy Cay, where we'd heard from friends that there was excellent snorkelling.   We dinghied around to the mooring buoys provided by the Bahamas Park.   Sure enough there was a fantastic array of different types of corals, beautiful fans and rock-type formations and we spent a wonderful hour or so swimming amongst the colourful resident fish.  Not far from the coral was a steep drop-off and there on the sea bed we could see many rays, including spotted leopard rays.   

This OK for dinner?

Suddenly there was a flash of grey, we had company of the shark type.    This time it wasn't the harmless nurse sharks, which mostly sleep during the day on the sea bed, this one was a black-tipped reef shark and although he seemed to ignore us, we were nervous and slowly but surely made our way back to the safety of our faithful dinghy nearby.   

After a restorative cup of tea, we pushed on to Marsh Harbour, where we actually found a pocket of deeper water in which to anchor.  On our previous visit we'd often bumped on the bottom at low water.    Based on the last weather forecast we'd heard, it seemed we'd be waiting there for a few days before making the passage up the Gulf Stream back to the USA.   We planned a couple of days of jobs and provisioning in preparation for the trip.    However, the incompatibility of plans and sailing was again evident when early next morning we checked in with Chris Parker, our weather router, to find that the forecast had changed and his advice was that we should either leave that morning or we'd have to wait another week for a suitable weather window to make the four day ocean passage.

A couple of hours of frantic activity ensued.    We rushed ashore to get the supplies we needed and topped up our fuel a little with our jerry cans, unable to bring Anju alongside the fuel dock at low water.   By lunchtime we were underway and heading towards the open ocean.    

Just as we hit the deep water we heard a voice we recognised on the VHF, Bob from Tranquila, and we gave him a call.   It turned out Tranquila was anchored at a nearby cay but by now we were psyched up for our ocean passage, so we'd have to wait until the next time to meet up with them again.


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