As I write this we are drifting slowly (making 4.2kts in 4.6kts of wind under the code zero) towards Jamaica. We are definitely back to the hot part of the world and our iPads periodically proclaim over heating – really! We passed the Tropic of Cancer on Long Island and are now on Latitude 18 degrees north. Nassau was 25 degrees north.
We left the Bahamas (Great Inagua Island) rather hastily last night. I was very much hoping to visit the largest breeding population of West Indian flamingoes and the various other birds who reside at the Inagua National Park. The anchorage at Matthew town is decidedly rolly. While we do not expect much sympathy, for those who do not know, a night at a rolly anchorage is a hateful experience, and just recently we have been in a few. You do not rock peacefully to sleep, rather the rocking tends to be inconsistent, things fall over, the boat rattles however hard you seek out the rattle culprit, there are always creaks, and you end up trying to sleep like a star fish – it never works! The winds were forecast to become very strong in a couple of days and we would probably have had to stay at Matthew Town for at least 5 days if we did not leave. Sadly the flamingoes had to be missed.
We managed to clear out on a Saturday much to our surprise, but the officials could not have been more helpful. A marine defence officer phoned the customs official. To be fair there was not much “guarding” going on, but it was generous all the same. She picked us up in her car and took us to the customs office. Immigration were not there but happy we leave the forms with the customs officer. A very casual way of operating but so helpful and very typical of all the islands.
It was a busy day in Matthew Town as the, once a week, mail boat had arrived. No next day deliveries here! This seemed to be a very social occasion and although it looked a little chaotic to us, I am sure that, via the ever faithful pick up truck, all the supplies reach the right home eventually. Just behind the mail boat was a sail boat from Haiti which delivers a special drink which is made there. This boat’s mast is a crudely shaped tree trunk with all the original bends, no engine but some long oars instead, and one suspects fairly primitive inside. Haiti is approximately 70NM away so these chaps are tough sailors!
We left Nassau for the last time on January 7th after leaving Tristan and Marie off to travel back to the UK, restocking the boat at the eye wateringly expensive supermarket near the marina, and Julian’s final eye check up which confirmed that all was fine.
On our trip south down the Exuma chain of islands we stopped at Norman’s Cay again and then Black Point and George Town on Great Exuma. Black Point was a very local, but friendly tiny village. George Town, on the other hand was a serious cruising boat “hang out.” Many cruising people arrive here and stay for an extended time and some never quite get around to leaving and so create house boats! This is not for us but we were very happy to be sociable, and do some boat jobs in some beautiful surroundings for a few days. This cruising community is well established – The daily radio net lasts up to three quarters of an hour every morning, there is volley ball, soft ball, yoga, hiking trails, sailing regatta, poker nights, quiz nights, beach church and, of course beach parties. The swap, buy and sell works well and we were lucky enough to be given a replacement dinghy oar as the original had been lost.
Julian was delighted to see the Magistrate’s Court was operational in George Town and the clerk very kindly showed us into the court. It was much like home. Somehow the pink paint work seems to work in this brIght light and Julian was suitably impressed with the court rules! The Bahamas is an ex British colony so there are many legacies. They drive on the left albeit most of the cars, imported from America, are right hand drive, which is slightly disconcerting.
Moving south from here is not particularly easy due to coral heads and prevailing easterlies. It also takes you away from the tourist areas to the remote aptly called “far out islands”. According to our guide book these are the islands where Christopher Columbus first landed in 1492. We opted to motor west in a flat calm to Conception Island. This is an uninhabited island and a sanctuary for migratory birds and green turtles. We did not see any birds or turtles but we were on our own, and it was another wonderful beach.
Then onto Long Island and Clarence Town and South Point. There is not much happening on Long Island except the weekly mail boat which just happened to be at Clarence Town when we were there. We learnt that in older times there had been plantations here and we saw the evidence of substantial walls but the island is now mainly scrub and very depopulated. Lovely as these islands are, I can see why young people would rather move to Nassau or Freeport. South Point had another wonderful beach and there were just two other boats in the anchorage. We ventured inland for a change and walked along the only road and found a tiny store. Julian was after some rum. The lady in the shop, who was just lovely, did not have any but her brother who had a little bar would be able to help and he was just down the road. On our return her brother was waiting for us, so we joined him at his bar for a few beers, some chat and a bottle of rum! We learned about the island and it was a lovely interlude. Next planned stop was Jamaica bay on Acklin Island but this was rolly and the wind was making it a lee shore. We opted to do a night sail to Matthew Town on Great Inagua and arrive in the morning.
We have thoroughly enjoyed the Bahamas and it was great to have Angus, Tristan and Marie on the boat for Xmas and the New Year. Nassau is busy but on the islands it is really very quiet. We have had some great sailing in good winds and smooth seas, but we will particularly remember the beaches, the warm clear waters, the light and the turquoise colours. Happy days.