April 9 – April 15
Early today we checked the wind and wave forecast as we would be running for two and a half hours outside in the Exuma Sound to Georgetown. Everything looked decent so we upped anchor early and headed out past Lee Stocking Island, where there is a defunct marine research institute, and back out through Adderley Cut. Once we had Sonas on her waypoint to Georgetown we found pleasant conditions all the way into Elizabeth Harbour. As we passed Emerald Bay we looked to see if there was anything left of the disasterous Fryer Festival from two years ago, but everything had been cleaned up and there was no indication that anything had ever happened there – or more accurately, not happened there!
We entered Elizabeth Harbour by the pretty complicated north entrance, which necessitates navigating five waypoints past reefs and rocks. Once in the harbour we anchored right off Georgetown so as to make getting to the stores easier. We were only planning on stopping for the night to provision before continuing south. We launched the dinghy and went to the Exuma Market and then the liquor store for some more Captain Morgan for Paul! We will be returning to Georgetown later for the Family Regattas.
When we got back to the boat the crew of Maerin contacted Paul via the Trawler Forum (where Paul and Steve had often chatted) saying they had dinghy’d past Sonas while we were ashore. We then realized we had passed by them and their two dogs outside Exuma Market and sadly had not realized we “knew” each other.
Paul had been noticing that our engine start batteries were being drawn down while underway, which should not happen as the engine alternators should keep them charged. He suspected a piece of equipment called the Automatic Charge Relay. After researching how it works and starting a conversation on one of his boating forums, he was able to identify the issue and get it rectified.
We were also having trouble with our fridge freezer. Even though it is equipped with locks it still works its way open in heavy seas. So Paul came up with a hack that we can use when we know there is potential heavy weather.
April 10. We upped anchor before breakfast today as we were running the four and a half hours to Long Island. Still part of the Bahamas but not part of the Exuma chain. We tried calling Maerin on the VHF to chat with no success.
We headed out of the south channel of Elizabeth Harbour and set our heading for Long island. A coupe of hours later, watching our location closely, we crossed the Tropic Of Cancer – we were now officially in the Tropics! I told Sian that all of a sudden I fancied a Margarita! I was denied since it was only mid morning, I got a cup of green tea instead! And a chocolate digestive biscuit! It was a celebration after all!
The weather forecast for the area was for scattered thunder storms, accompanied by high gusting winds. We had a very calm cruise for the four and a half hours to the turn into Thompson Harbour , but just as we turned in large black clouds gathered, and as we laid the anchor out we had strong winds and, once we got below, heavy rain. This continued for most of the afternoon, but then laid down in the evening. We did not bother launching the dinghy or try to go ashore. We had chosen to anchor in the north part of Thompson Harbour as there was some protection from a headland. The three boats that later followed us in chose to do the same. As we sat at anchor we looked across to the beach and saw a building well lit up indicating that it could be a bar/restaurant – and worth investigating for tomorrow!
April 11. We had a restless night on board as the wind and rain swung around 180 degrees during the night creating a bit of anchor and snubber noise. Then later it swung the 180 degrees back again! It was still raining in the morning so after breakfast Sian went up and washed the dinghy, allowing the rain to rinse it. She then got busy making bread, and Paul got after a couple of small chores he had been putting off – like adding velcro to the bottom of all of our wall hangings so as to stop them moving around as we cruise. The forecast is for the rain to move off after lunch and the wind to move to a favorable direction for going ashore.
After lunch the weather did improve as forecasted and we launched the dinghy. We ran to the dinghy dock at Salt Pond. Tying up we walked up to the top of the hill and found the location of the car hire as we had planned to hire a car to see the island. We then went into the market which we found really well stocked. We will revisit tomorrow to get some provisions. While in the market we asked them if they knew of someone who would give us a tour of the island in his car, we wondered if it would be better to use a guide rather than go around the island in our own car. They made a call for us and we met with David. He said he would put a tour together for us for tomorrow and call us with the price. He later did call and give us an itinerary with a reasonable price using his car. However we decided that we would rather do it one our own, so we thanked David and called the hire place and reserved a car for two days over the weekend.
We then went to the Sou’ End Bar and Grill for a quick beer. Getting back into the dinghy and leaving the dock we decided to go and have a look at the place we saw from the boat last night that looked like a bar/restaurant. We pulled in through a small jetty and Sian jumped off and went up. And yes, it was Tiny’s Hurricane Hole – restaurant and bar!
After cleaning up on board we took the dinghy across to Tiny’s Hurricane Hole bar and grill and had drinks and grouper dinners. We talked to a couple from Ottawa who were staying at one of the cottages there and met the owners, Michelle and Jason, who were very receptive and friendly. They had just found out that their location had made the top ten in a list of best beach bars on the Out Island Blog along with Nippers in the Abacos and Chat and Chill in Georgetown! Quite the achievement!
April 12. Today we decided to so some small chores on Sonas in the morning and then walk the beach on the NE side of Thompson Harbour. After lunch we went into Salt pond and picked up a few things up from the grocery store. Paul then got in touch with the local Catholic Church and found out where Palm Sunday services were this weekend.
We had heard on the local Cruisers Net (transmission over the VHF every morning) that there was a Happy Hour at the Sou’ Side Bar and Grill starting at four, so around 4:30 we dinghy’d in and went up to see what was going on. There were folks there from three other boats that had anchored in the harbour as well as some long term boaters staying on their boats off Long Island. Added to that were some locals – so all in all a very interesting conversation over a few beers! We did get some tips of where to go on the island as we had rented a car for a couple of days starting tomorrow!
April 13. Every Saturday from 8 until 12 there is a well know farmers market in Salt Pond. The Cruisers Guide raved about it and we had heard about it from a couple of people. We were also warned to get there early as the produce sells out quickly. So promptly at 8 we were in the dinghy and off to the market. We returned to Sonas 30 minutes later disappointed in the market and having bought nothing!
We picked up our rental car by noon and were glad to find that the little Toyota had air conditioning that worked really well! We decided we would go visit the south end of the island first. We had heard about some supposedly spectacular caves on the island, so we called the guy who owns the land they are on and made arrangements for a tour at 3:00 this afternoon.
Looking at the small tourist guide put out by the Long Island Chamber of Commerce Sian identified a potential for lunch – Max’s Conch Bar and Grill on Deadman’s Cay. We hadn’t had a conch salad so far on this trip, so time to rectify that! We found Max’s easily enough as it was well represented by flags on the roadside! We enjoyed a beer, conch salad and red snapper in a real Bahamian out island location!
After lunch we swung by the meeting place for the cave tour just to make sure we knew where we were going, and then drove to the south end of the island and the Long Island capital, Clarence Town. We saw from the tourist guide that there was a neat Catholic church atop a hill overlooking the town with an altar and windows that should be seen. We got there to find the church locked up. We drove over to the Clarence Town marina and found a brand new facility with pool, ships store and restaurants. There were some boats anchored in the bay and a few in the marina, well protected from the angry Atlantic broiling outside.
Leaving Clarence Town we headed over to find Dean’s Blue Hole. This blue hole is the second larges in the world at over 660 feet deep. We found it at the end of a private two mile long sand road. We didn’t have time to snorkel it but planned to go back after our cave tour.
It was time to go meet our guide Leonard and visit the caves. We got to the meeting point, met our guide and owner and his young grandson Austin. We followed them to the entrance to the caves, not knowing what to expect – and were astonished at what we were shown. These were huge caverns, full of stalagmites and stalactites. Five species of bats use the caverns, with three in residence right now. There have been excavations of the caves, used by the Lucayan Indians hundreds of years ago, and artifacts found of pottery, bones etc. We will let the photos show how awesome this place is. If this was on an island visited by cruise ships, or otherwise popular with tourists, this would be a gold mine for the owner. Though when I suggested this Leonard didn’t seem over enthused o the idea!
Saying our goodbyes to Leonard and Austin, we headed back to Dean’s Blue Hole. We put on our snorkeling gear and swam out. We have to tell you that it is a really eerie feeling, to swim from less than two feet of sandy water to a slope rapidly falling to a rough edge of limestone, and then to darkness. You can’t help but think, while floating there looking down, what is down there looking up!
Heading north back to Salt Pond, we parked the hire car by the dinghy dock and, after a quick beer at Sou’ Side we headed back to Sonas. It had been quite a full day!
April 14, Palm Sunday. Today arrived with a bit of wind and quite a chop in the anchorage. We were clearly going to get wet going to shore in the dinghy. So we put on shorts and tees and packed all of our church clothes in a black trash bag. We got to the dinghy dock to find the female crews of three powerboats standing chatting. Paul warned them to avert their eyes and there was going to be some change of clothing happening – involving trouser dropping! We got into our church clothes and headed off to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Hamiltons.
We got there in plenty of time, and as we gathered at the front for the palm procession who did we see – Leonard and Austin (from the caverns) , who were Eucharistic Minister and altar boy. Leonard’s other grandson was a second altar boy! The service in the pretty little church was enjoyable and we bade our farewells and headed to see the north side of the island.
We had decided to stay in our church clothes until we got to Stella Maris. We saw that there was a resort there with two restaurants. We would have a posh’ish lunch and then change into our casual clothes to explore the rest of the island. When we got to the resort we decided to go to the beach bar and grill instead of the main restaurant – so nipped into a restroom and changed into shorts and tees before having lunch overlooking the wild, and raging looking, Atlantic!
Leaving Stella Maris we headed to the very north of the Island and drove along a very rough sandy and rocky road, if it could be called a road, to the Columbus Monument. As we went out to the monument we saw that they were building what looked like a new road out there. As we arrived at the monument we also saw that they were developing the site. We later read that there was a large expenditure assigned to improving the area as a tourist site.
We got to the monument, walking the last half mile as we were concerned that the “road” would soon rip the bottom off the engine! The monument signifies the landing point of Columbus’s longboat n the new world. There is also a plaque embedded in the sea floor off the coastline indicating where he laid anchor. The headland is named Cape Santa Maria.
Leaving the monument and slowly, very slowly, driving back to the main aphsalt road, we pulled out a list of recommended beached that we had been given by Michelle at Tiny’s Hurricane Hole. There was a beach that she recommended at Galliot Cay, so we swung off the road and went to have a look at it. The beach looked spectacular, and there were a number of boats anchored in the bay. We decided, after leaving the hire car back tomorrow we would head up here to anchor and enjoy the white sand and clear blue waters.
April 15. We had planned to use the car again this morning to hit one of the East side beaches and snorkel some near shore reefs. However the morning brought clouds and rain, so we took the car down to the gas station and filled it up along with a gas can for our dinghy. We left the rental back, upped anchor and headed off to the beach we had seen our drive yesterday.
We motored for two and a half hours to Galliot Cay and anchored in the clear blue waters about 150 feet off the beach. We swam to shore, walked the one and a half mile long beach, and swam back to Sonas. Sian got on the paddle board again. Life was good!
Tonight the wind completely died away. The water was so clear and still that we were able to see the anchor chain loop back under Sonas and see the anchor sitting off our swim platform! Paul took the opportunity to grab some drone footage, including seeing a number of small star fish on the bottom.
And tonight, for the first time on this trip, we had to leave the generator running for the cabin air conditioner since there was no breeze for the Breeze Boosters and it was very warm.