New Providence


After anchoring for over a month we decided to go to New Providence and stay in a marina.  New Providence is the most populous island in the Bahamas, and the capital and largest city Nassau is located there.  We really had no desire to go to Nassau, so we stayed at a small marina on the south side of the island, Palm Cay.  This is a resort marina, and staying here gave us a chance to get fresh vegetables from the local supermarket. 

Palm Cay is also the home of many charter catamarans.  It has a harbor that is pretty small, and with the typical inexperience of people that charter these boats we were very thankful the marina crew moved most of the boats within the harbor.  Apparently our concerns were well founded as we talked to another boat owner staying at the marina.  He was on his own boat but had chartered an additional boat for family that was flying in to meet him.  At the last minute the charter company had to cancel his charter as others had run several boats aground, damaging the running gear.  They no longer had a boat available for him.  He was trying to figure out how to accommodate 10 people and two dogs on a boat with beds for 5 or 6.  He made it work though.

After we left Palm Cay we transited around the eastern side of New Providence, and then went through Hanover Sound on the north side of Paradise Island.  Along the way we say Sandy Cay, shown below.  A photo of this island was used in the first season of the TV show Gilligan’s Island as an image of where the crew was shipwrecked.  I don’t think they filmed any of the show on this island.

After passing through Hanover Sound we passed near the Atlantis resort.  This is on Paradise Island, and is part of Nassau.  That’s as close as I desired to get to Nassau as I have no desire to visit cities.

After leaving the vicinity of Nassau we crossed the body of water called Tongue of the Ocean, and stopped in the Berry Islands.

Hawksbill Cay


After leaving Black Point we started back north to the Exuma Land and Sea Park.  We spent one night in Warderick Wells, and then moved to Hawksbill Cay, an island we haven’t visited yet.  There are lots of megayachts in the Bahamas this year because of the virus closures in Europe and elsewhere, and thankfully there are only a couple of them anchored at this island.  We’re getting a little tired of seeing them.

We first anchored on the south side of the island.  There are some beautiful beaches here, and Sinbad had lots of fun running and digging on them. 

We decided to go for a hike through the island to find an old housing site noted in the park literature.  We found some nice trails (see below) and got to the Exuma Gulf side of the island where we had a great view, but had no luck finding the old site.

The park offers mooring balls in most of these anchorages, and when we arrived here we tried to pick up the pendant on one.  Unfortunately the boat hook was lost overboard, we thought never to be seen again.  A couple days later we searched for it in the dinghy, and sure enough we found it in 15 feet of water.  Marilou was able to pick it up with another deck tool, so we were back in business.  It wasn’t so much the cost of replacing it, but we would be without it for the rest of our trip.

After a couple days we decided to move to a different anchorage to search for the Russell ruins mentioned above.  In 1785 the Russell family who were loyal to the British King were relocated here from America and given a land grant to farm sisal on the island.  They built houses using local rocks, wood harvested from the trees present at the time, and a cement made from cooking sea shells.  After landing on a different beach from our previous hike we followed a trail up a hill and found the ruins.  The family abandoned the site in about 1830, and the ruins were rediscovered in the last 20 years or so.

The houses and storage buildings no longer have rooves, but some of the walls are still standing.  It’s surprising how small the structures were, but they likely spent most of their time working outdoors.  The photos below show some of the walls we found while walking around the site.

We also found the oven used to cook the cement and an adjacent pile of conch shells, shown below.  The oven is in the shape of a beehive.  Pretty surprising these shells are about 200 years old.

We also found several cisterns cut into the rock to store water, and a long wall of rocks piled up.  I really can’t imagine the purpose of the long wall, but maybe they were working on a much larger structure.

Finally we started back down the trail to the beach.  While the Russell’s may have lived in a remote location they at least had a nice view.

Black Point


After departing Staniel Cay we moved south about 6 miles and anchored near the town of Black Point.  This is on Great Guana Cay, but it is not the island with the same name in the Abacos where we stayed previously.  This is an out island with no expatriate residents, so the population is strictly Bahamian.  They are the friendliest people we have ever met.

We are anchored in a cove near the town, with a view of some of the houses shown below.  Many houses are under construction, with progress being about the same as I achieve in my own building projects.  The photo shows a sailboat on the left side.  Later in the afternoon the man on the sailboat got into his dinghy, cast off from the anchored sailboat, and then was unable to get the engine started.  He tried to row, but was losing ground in the wind.  I watched this for a bit, and then jumped in our dinghy to get him back to his sailboat.  He was seriously intoxicated, and had been arguing with his girlfriend.  I got him back to safety, and he wanted me to mediate his argument with the girlfriend.  Of course I wasn’t having any part of that.  Later, after dark, I saw him raise the anchor and motor off towards Staniel Cay.  I can only hope he didn’t have a problem in the dark.

Black Point is a small town with limited economy.  Many people commute by boat to Staniel Cay, and others operate restaurants to serve lunch to day trip tour boats from George Town.  Others work in local construction, but beyond that there isn’t much here.  Still the people are really friendly and seem happy to have us visiting.  The photos below show some of the town and local government services.  They also have a power plant with diesel generators, a cell phone tower, and maybe a reverse osmosis water plant.  I never saw that, but they have to get water somewhere.

While we were at Black Point we meet up with our friends Steve and Diane Koch on their boat Aurora.  They are long time cruisers, and spend several months each year in the Bahamas.  Together we rented a golf cart and drove around the island.  Some of the photos from this excursion are below.

The photo above was taken on the windward side of the island.  A moderate southeast wind was blowing (15-20 knots), and the waves were fairly strong out in the Exuma Gulf.  Our anchorage, on the leeward side of the island, was relatively calm in these conditions. 

We did visit one small cove (by land) that is on the windward side of the island that is shown above.  It is well protected, and had only small waves this day.  The story of this cove, as I understand it, was that many years ago before cruisers regularly visited this area a retired dentist lived aboard his sailboat and visited these islands while providing dental care to the residents.  He anchored in this cove during a hurricane and wrote a book on the experience.

In the last photo from our golf cart tour, shown above, you can see boats anchored in a quiet cove.  Great Guana Cay is the largest island in the Exumas, and only a small portion of it is accessible by land.  We drove through the limited road system, and this cove was at the southern limit of the road. 

Finally, the photos below show one of the highlights of Black Point.  The town is famous for several restaurants including Lorraine’s Café.  The food was good, but the real highlight was buying loaves of coconut bread from her mother.  That was really tasty.

Staniel Cay (Part 2)

I took a photo looking back at the yacht club docks.  They are pretty empty in this photo, and sometimes there are five or six boats waiting to go to the fuel dock or trying to get tied up to the transient docks.  We don’t worry about the professional boat captains, but the people who charter a boat one week a year usually aren’t the best at boat handling. 

Directly behind our mooring is an island known as Thunderball Grotto, shown in the first photo below.  Most of this island is a cave, and it is possible to snorkel into the cave at low tide.  There is an opening at the top, so there is plenty of light inside.  Many people visit here.  In 1964 there was a James Bond film made here, Thunderball, much of it inside the cave.  The yacht club bar had photos of the film crew and actors in the bar from that time.  I didn’t snorkel it, but the second photo below is the cave entrance taken from our dinghy.

When we are anchored or on a mooring we try to take Sinbad ashore every day to let him play in the sand.  While there we often see sharks swimming by, one of which is shown below.  This is a medium sized nurse shark, and there are many of them here as the tourists feed them from the yacht club docks.  They seldom attack people unless provoked. 

We also had this visitor every day hanging out below our dinghy when tied to the back of the big boat.  He can be seen in the first photo below as a dark shape under the front of the dinghy.  It took a couple days until I figured out he was a barracuda, about 4 feet long.  The second photo is a little clearer.  I don’t know why they like to hang out under boats and docks, but I have often seen them do this.  I did notice he vacated the area when a bigger shark swam by one day.

After three days we will move to an anchorage at Black Point, the next island south of Staniel Cay.

Staniel Cay (Part 1)


We departed the mooring field at Warderick Wells this morning and began moving south out of the park.  We are short on fresh vegetables and have two bags of trash to dispose of, so we will go to Staniel Cay.  There is a small town here with a yacht club, and several small grocery stores. 

As we moved south we began to see more and more very large yachts.  I generally call anything over 100 feet a megayacht, and there were dozens of them.  We were especially impressed with the two below, named Lonian and Hodor, both owned by Lorenzo Fertitta.  The first one, Lonian, is a 285 foot vessel that he uses as his primary yacht.  The second one, Hodor, is a 217 foot support vessel, essentially his toy barge.  They had big speed boats, one with five 450 HP outboard motors, helicopters, and assorted other toys including a submarine.  Wow.

We next passed a large island, Big Majors Spot.  This island has a large, protected harbor with many boats, large and small, anchored there.  A photo showing some of the boats in the anchorage is shown below.  This island has feral pigs that will swim with tourists.  They will sometimes bite, and we have no desire to swim with pigs anyway, so we are avoiding it.

Finally we arrived at Staniel Cay.  There is a yacht club here that caters to many of the charter boats traversing this area.  We got a mooring ball away from the hub of activity in a quiet bay north of the main docks.  The view in this bay is better anyway.

Warderick Wells (Part 2)

We also went for a walk up the hill shown in the first photo below.  This is called BooBoo hill, possibly because a boat ran aground on the reefs on the opposite side of the island from where we are moored.  A photo of these reefs is also shown below, and was taken from the top of the hill. The darker lines in the second photo are coral reefs that prevent boats from landing on this side of the island.

The top of this hill has a pile of driftwood that people have carried up here.  It is a tradition among some people which we didn’t observe.  I thought it was a bit of an eyesore.

One advantage of climbing the hill is we briefly got cell phone connectivity to a cell tower about 20 miles away.  That’s important because we get our weather forecast via email, and need a cell phone connection to download that.  We haven’t seen the weather for several days because we have been in remote areas.

One disadvantage of going on these walks is we found a poisonwood tree, a native tree to the Bahamas.  This apparently gives a rash similar to poison ivy, only worse.  Marilou has virulent reaction to poison ivy which in turn makes my life quite miserable even though I don’t get a reaction.  I was glad she didn’t have a reaction to being near this tree.

The only mammal native to the Bahamas is a rodent called hutia.  These can grow to be about 24 inches long, and look like a rat with a short tail.  They are nocturnal, and we didn’t see one, but the staff in the park warned us not to let Sinbad play close to the trees on a beach as they will sometimes lure a dog to chase them after which the dog disappears.  We really didn’t want this, so afterwards we only let him play on a beach that was far from any vegetation.  The hutia were thought extinct, but a population was found on a remote, uninhabited cay in the southern Bahamas, and they were reintroduced to Warderick Wells.  We saw lots of droppings on our walks, but never saw the animal.

One of the beaches on the island has a whale skeleton, shown below.  This was a 52 foot sperm whale that beached itself several years ago.  The skeleton was very impressive.  The park office also had a display case containing a pilot whale skeleton, some of which is also shown below.  This whale also beached itself.

After two days in the park we decided to continue to Staniel Cay.  We have two bags of trash to dispose of, and we are out of fresh vegetables, so it is time to reprovision.  The weather forecast is also showing several days unsettled weather with numerous squalls, so we’ll move closer to the town for a bit.

Warderick Wells (Part 1)


Today we moved further into the park and tied to a mooring ball near the park headquarters on Warderick Wells.  This is a well known spot, and is very popular with cruisers.  We can see why it is so popular.  We will stay here for two nights.

The entrance to this spot passes three mooring balls designed for boats up to 150 feet, then between a couple navigation markers, and then up a winding channel that is about 50 feet wide.  It sounds challenging, but it really was pretty easy.  During the busy season all these mooring buoys are full, but this late in the season that isn’t the case.  The first photo below shows the view up the channel towards the park headquarters, and the second is back down the channel towards the entrance.  The third photo shows our boat in the center, and the other boats around us.

While we were in this mooring field we saw lots of wildlife.  A couple are shown below.  The first is a sea turtle.  This is a small one, about 18 inches across the shell.  When we were in more open water we saw one that was over 4 feet across the shell, but I wasn’t able to get a photo of it. 

The second photo is an unusual fish that I have never seen before.  This fish swam just under the surface and the dorsal fin seemed to wave back and forth above the water.  We asked the lady in the park office what fish this was and she said ocean tally.  I looked that up and it is what we call a triggerfish.  I had never seen one before, but I have eaten them in a restaurant.

While we stayed here we went for a walk on some of the trails in the park.  Along the way we again saw a freshwater well, a photo of which is below.  There were several of these, all about the same size.  I think the hole was enlarged at some time in the past by people who needed to access the water they contain.

On that walk we got to see some unusual plants, and found a remote beach no one had visited for a while.  Photos of these are shown below.

Shroud Cay


Today we departed the anchorage at Norman’s Cay and moved into a national park, the Exuma Land and Sea Park.  We are tied to a mooring ball at one of the northernmost islands in the park, Shroud Cay.

This island is small and relatively unremarkable, but it has a couple small beaches as shown in the photo below.  Sinbad had great fun on the one shown below and left almost no bit of sand undisturbed.  Marilou and I both went for a walk separately on the trail shown at the left of the photo, but one of us had to stay with the dog as he wasn’t welcome except on the beach. 

I didn’t take a camera on the walk but I found a freshwater well on the island.  We have a watermaker on the boat that makes freshwater from seawater using a pressurized system called reverse osmosis.  Except for very recent times the freshwater wells were exceedingly important for long range sailing ships as they had trouble getting freshwater.  There are only a few wells in the Bahamas, and most of the water people use here comes from rain or watermakers. 

The park has installed a number of mooring buoys throughout some of the islands in the park.  These are relatively inexpensive, and we like to use them.  The photo below shows some of the boats in this cove tonight along with a couple unused mooring buoys. 

We are really seeing an increase in the number of boats here, and many very large boats.  It is coming to the off-season for the park, so we are a little surprised at the number of visitors.  I imagine there is even more traffic here in March and April.

Norman’s Cay


Today we moved further south into the Exumas, and are anchored tonight off a beach at Norman’s Cay.  This island has a very colorful history, and that appears to be continuing today.

In the 1970’s a convicted drug smuggler, Carlos Lehder, bought some property on this island.  His property included an old airstrip which he repaired and extended, and which became a major base for Medellin cartel cocaine transshipment into the US using small planes.  Lehder ended up intimidating the other island residents until they abandoned the island, though many native Bahamians remained to work for Lehder.

The stories of this era are really legendary.  In addition to being a major shipping hub for illegal products the pilots tell stories of being met by jeeploads of naked women upon arrival.  Apparently the party atmosphere continued nonstop while the island was in it’s heyday.  Unfortunately for Lehder his blatant bribing of Bahamian government officials caught up with him, and in 1988 he was extradited to the US where he was convicted of trafficking.  He was released last year after spending 33 years in prison.

We are anchored off a beautiful beach tonight, as shown in the photo below. 

We took the dinghy around to a shallow seawater lagoon to see the airplane wreck there, shown in the photo below.  During the heyday this plane was landing here with a load of sod for the property, but it was scheduled to fly out later in the day with a load of cocaine.  The pilot decided to do a touch and go to familiarize himself with the area, and in doing so he crashed into the lagoon.  Today it is a popular snorkeling spot, though it appeared to me the plane hulk is beginning to disintegrate.

We did find a local tiki bar on the beach where we stopped to talk with the locals.  It was a really nice spot, and the locals were great people. 

Lehder’s airstrip has been further extended, and is still in use today, though likely not for cocaine shipment.  We saw many business jets landing and taking off from the runway.  In the first photo below the top of a jet’s tail can be seen above the trees while we were in the bar, and I went over to the runway and got a photo of a plane taking off.

Apparently this island has started a major development for billionaires who want to fly into the island on their jets.  The locals claimed many new tech billionaires have been there to look at property, and some are building mansions on the island.  We found the locals to be very friendly, like most everywhere in the Bahamas.

Tomorrow we will continue south into the Exuma Land and Sea Park, a national park.

Ship Channel Cay


Today we transited the narrow cut at Current and crossed an area of the Great Bahamas Bank known as the Middle Ground, and are anchored tonight in a cove at Ship Channel Cay.  The banks in the Bahamas are plateaus that rise from the deep ocean floor that are several thousand feet deep, and are formed of limestone with a water depth of 15-20 feet.  The bank edges rise abruptly from the deep ocean, and in the space of less than a mile the depth goes from 5,000 feet to about 20 feet.  I think that makes them sea mountains in their own right.  The islands in the Bahamas are high points on these banks, and they really aren’t more than 50 feet above the bank.  That’s pretty impressive.

The water in the Bahamas is unusually clear, and it is easy to see the bottom when one is on the bank.  The first photo below shows a view of the water while we were crossing the bank.  The different bottom types can be seen in this photo, with some being green from sand, others being a light blue from (I think) marl or limestone rock, and others being a darker color.  The dark color can be grass, coral or at a distance even shadows from clouds.  Grass and cloud shadows aren’t problematic for running aground, but coral can build heads that are only a couple feet under the water.  We really don’t want to run into these as doing so could catastrophically damage both the coral and the boat.  That’s a bad idea.

When crossing the Middle Bank there is an area known for many coral heads.  Two photos of these are shown below, but we easily saw and dodged hundreds of them.  Our path through that area was anything but straight, but we had no problems with them.

After crossing the Middle Ground we are anchored tonight at Ship Channel Cay.  It was named this because there is a deep water entrance from the ocean at the north end of the island, and supply boats for the now abandoned Decca station south of here would enter the bank through that spot.  In fact, as we passed that entrance we met a mail boat returned to Nassau from somewhere to the east or south.

Ship Channel Cay is the most northerly island in an area known as the Exumas.  It is ringed by hard limestone, called ironstone on the charts, and no beaches.  Unfortunately this means Sinbad did not get a romp ashore today.  He was a little disappointed.

Tomorrow we will continue on into the Exumas.